Celebrations have followed an “incredibly important” step that recognises the cultural heritage, connection to country and traditional owners of Butchulla land, Fraser Island.
The renaming of the world’s largest sand island to K’gari was formally adopted at the recent 44th session of the World Heritage Committee and is a major milestone in a long running campaign by the region’s traditional owners.
Proud Butchulla woman Rose Barrowcliffe, who has spent three years researching to uncover the missing chapters of history from K’gari, told Sunshine Coast News the official renaming set a precedent to continue acknowledging the region’s Indigenous history.
“Of course, the renaming is incredibly important to Butchulla people,” she said.
“It recognises that it is our country, and that our sovereignty still exists today.
“All of Queensland, and Australia, has strong Indigenous heritage. Re-adopting Indigenous place names is one part of recognising that.”
Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Jade Gould said her people welcomed the name change of the world heritage area within Great Sandy National Park.
K’gari is the Butchulla people’s name for the island, which translates to “paradise” and recognises the island as just that – a paradise – rather than the dark history behind its colonial name.
“The Butchulla people have been campaigning for years to change the name,” Ms Gould said.
“The name Fraser Island is a tribute to Eliza Fraser — a woman whose narrative directly led to the massacre and dispossession of the Butchulla people.
“A word meaning paradise in Butchulla language is a much more fitting name for such an iconic place.”
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Kate Doolan from the Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation said the name changes showed reflection and respect for Butchulla people, past, present and future.
“On behalf of the Butchulla people we pay respect to our Elders who are no longer with us to hear this news,” Ms Doolan said.
“Today is a time of reflection for our people and for those souls who long advocated for such a meaningful change over such a lengthy period of time.
“BNTAC also looks forward to a positive future relationship with the Department of Environment and Science and the State of Queensland, to promote reconciliation by working collaboratively in partnership.”
Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said this step built on the name change of the Island’s national park to K’gari (Fraser Island) section of the Great Sandy National Park, which was declared in 2017.
“That was the first step in the process,” Ms Scanlon said.
“I look forward to working with the Butchulla people, stakeholders and the community to progress the necessary steps now for the formal renaming of the entire island to K’gari.
“Other national parks have been renamed in consultation with Traditional Owners and the community including Naree Budjong Djara National Park on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and Gheebulum Kunungai National Park Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), both of which are home to the Quandamooka people.”
The milestone is also significate for the local tourism industry and Kingfisher Bay Resort Group General Manager David Hay said the name change was timely and necessary.
“With the support of the Butchulla people, we have been calling the island K’gari for some time now,” Mr Hay said.
“This change couldn’t have come at a better time as we emerge from Covid and work to attract domestic and international travellers back to the region and the island.
“There has never been a truer word spoken — K’gari really is paradise.”