In very good (if overdue) news for the Butchulla people, Fraser Island has been reverted to its Aboriginal namesake.
The Queensland government has officially changed the island’s name to K’gari, a word which means ‘paradise’ and has its origins in the Dreamtime. The campaign to change the region’s name back to its Indigenous name was led by the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation, and was celebrated with a welcome to Country ceremony and a smoking ceremony on Sunday.
The Butchulla people have been the guardians of the World Heritage-listed island and its surrounds for thousands of years, and have long referred to it as K’gari (pronounced ‘Gurri’). However, the island was renamed after Scottish woman Eliza Fraser was shipwrecked on the island in 1836 and was taken in by the Butchulla people.
But she later wrote of her experience and claimed to have been captured by Aboriginal people, though other white people had previously been taken in by the Traditional Owners and been treated extremely well. I’m not buying it, Lize. The Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation said her account of the incident directly lead to the massacre and dispossession of the Traditional Owners.
‘We have been campaigning for years to change the island’s name,’ said Jade Gould from the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation. ‘But it is a hollow symbol if our rights are not recognised by the Queensland government.’