The Butchulla People | Fraser Island’s Traditional Owners
Fraser Island, or K’gari (meaning paradise) to the Traditional Owners, has been a special place in the culture the Butchulla People for well over 5,000 years. It is estimated that the Great Sandy Region, including K’gari, was home to over 3,000 Butchulla People and said that the lakes on Fraser Island play an integral part in their Dreaming.
The Butchulla People lived in harmony with the land and sea sustaining themselves on abundant marine life and bush tucker until the time of European settlement in the early 1800s. During this period in history, colonisation had a devastating impact on the Butchulla People - much of their way of life was destroyed and their numbers were said to reduce from the thousands to around 300.
K’gari contains well over 500 cultural sites with spiritual and social significance to the Butchulla People, many of which were uncovered during a major archaeological project in 1976. The 152 shell middens, 66 stone artefact scatters, numerous campsites and scarred trees recorded during this time offer a window into the lives of this ancient culture and their beliefs of maintaining a balance between social, spiritual and family connections.
Today there are only a handful of surviving descendants remaining and the ongoing management and preservation of their cultural sites is important to ensure that future generations can continue to learn, understand and respect the Butchulla way of life. Visitors to K’gari will see ‘welcome to country’ signs placed around the island from the Traditional Owners who wish to pass on their messages of care and respect for the land to all.
The Traditional Owners significantly shaped Fraser Island as we know it today - if you come across a Butchella cultural site during your visit to Fraser Island, please respect the history and cultural significance of the area, take only memories and leave only footprints.
To learn more about the history of Fraser Island, click here!