World Heritage Area renamed K’gari after long campaign by Butchulla people

The World Heritage Area within Great Sandy National Park which is centred on Fraser Island, along with the surrounding waters and parts of the nearby mainland, has been renamed K’gari – the original Butchulla people’s name for the island.

The move was be celebrated at a ceremony with Butchulla representatives and Elders on K’gari yesterday.

The name change 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.

Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Jade Gould said her people welcome the name change of the world heritage area to K’gari.

“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 lead 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.”

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the formal adoption of “K’gari (Fraser Island)” for the World Heritage Area was a big milestone and reason to celebrate.

“K’gari, the surrounding waters and parts of the mainland are home for the Butchulla people who have long asked for K’gari’s name to be repatriated,” Minister Scanlon said. “I am pleased I will be with the Butchulla representatives and Elders for the official ceremony.”

“The name change recognises and honours the Butchulla peoples and their traditions, their culture and their ongoing connection to Country. It continues the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to reconciliation and healing; to building, strengthening and reframing our relationships with First Nations peoples.”

Minister Scanlon said that this builds 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. 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 Palaszczuk Government recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island heritage and cultures, which represent an enduring and ongoing connection to Country for over 60 000 years,” Ms Scanlon said.

Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari said the naming was a significant milestone for the community, and was an important acknowledgment of Butchulla history and connection to Country.

“This is a significant step for all involved. With so many people rekindling their love of the island as domestic tourism increases, I hope they can appreciate what K’gari means – paradise,” Mr Tantari said. “This is a place with such a rich history of Indigenous culture, one that we should definitely acknowledge. Our community has acknowledged the name K’gari for quite some time now, and I can’t wait for visitors to do the same.”

Kate Doolan from the Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation has welcomed the World Heritage Area’s name change to K’gari.

“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.”

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.”

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