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It's Official: World Heritage-Listed Island K'gari Has Reclaimed Its Traditional Indigenous Name

The world's largest sand island is no longer called Fraser Island, with its traditional name now officially restored.
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2023
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2023

For more than 60,000 years, the world's largest sand island has been known as K'gari by its Traditional Owners. From now on, that's the World Heritage-listed southeast Queensland spot's official name again. Two years after announcing that it'd make the change, the Queensland Government has officially restored the 122-kilometre coastal locale's Indigenous moniker, with the spot no longer called Fraser Island.

Pronounced with a silent k, K'gari is the original Butchulla name for the island, and it now applies across its entirety. Back in 2017, the island's national park was renamed the K'gari (Fraser Island) section of the Great Sandy National Park. Then, in 2022, the island's World Heritage Area was renamed K'gari (Fraser Island) World Heritage Area. This new move clearly goes a step further.

The Queensland Government worked through the formal steps required to put in place the name change, in conjunction with the Butchulla people, stakeholders and the community. In 2022, it received almost 6000 public submissions about the move, the majority in favour. The suburb of Fraser Island also changes its name to K'gari.

"It was through disrespect to the Butchulla people that her name, K'gari — the home of the Butchulla people — was taken away. Thankfully, it is now through respect to the Butchulla people that K'gari — her name — has been reclaimed," said Gayle Minniecon, Chair of the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation.

"Our oral history, our creation story will now be told and learnt as it should be. Our ancestors understood and committed to the importance of caring for K'gari since time immemorial, and today we continue this cultural obligation."

Back in 2021, then-Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Jade Gould explained why the Butchulla people had been campaigning for years to change the name.

"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," Gould said.

"A word meaning paradise in Butchulla language is a much more fitting name for such an iconic place."

"I'm proud that today we can officially welcome K'gari home, and reinstate the name used by Traditional Owners for all these years," advised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

"We will continue to recognise Indigenous languages through place names, in the spirit of truth-telling and reconciliation as we walk the Path to Treaty. While steps like this can't change the wrongs of the past, it goes a long way to building a future where all Queenslanders value, trust, and respect each other."

"This always was and always will be Butchulla Country."

Along with reinstating K'gari as the island's name, more than 19 hectares of land was transferred to the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation — land that used be used to benefit the Butchulla people, the island's Traditional Owners, and isn't allowed to be bought, sold or mortgaged.

K'gari isn't just the biggest sand island in the world; it's made up of 184,000 hectares of the stuff, in 72 colours and mostly in the form of magnificent dunes, much of which are covered in rainforest. It's also home to more than 100 freshwater lakes, including the crystal-clear waters of Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie), a perched lake made up of rainwater and soft silica sand.

For more information about K'gari, head to the Queensland Government website.

Images: Queensland Government.

Published on June 08, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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