+61 7 4128 4479

The Butchulla People | K'gari’s Traditional Owners

Updated Fri 09 Jun 2023

The Butchella People are the group of indigenous Australians who inhabited the island of K'gari, which many people nowadays know as Fraser Island. Let's dive into the history and culture of the Butchella People, as they are the Traditional Owners of the land that so many of us enjoy for tourism and adventure. K'gari is a very special place in Australia. To be a responsible traveler, it's important to acknowledge and respect those who inhabited this land in the past. 

Butchella sign

The Butchella People of K'gari (Fraser Island)

K’gari, which many people know as Fraser Island, has been a special place in the culture of the Butchulla People for well over 5,000 years. Though 5,000 years of Butchella history is proven, their culture may even date back 50,000 years! They named the island Kgari because it means paradise. Anyone who has visited K'gari (Fraser Island) as a traveler can understand why they named it so! K'gari is a stunning sand island off the east coast of Australia, but it was the Butchella People who originally called this gorgeous location home.

It is estimated that the Great Sandy Region, including K’gari, was home to over 3,000 Butchulla People during ancient times. These indigenous Australians lived in harmony with the land and sea and had a deep spiritual connection with the elements of nature. The land and the oceans surrounding K'gari sustained the Butchella people for many years. They ate bush tucker and hunted the abundant marine life of the Pacific.

K'gari coastline

Colonization of K'gari (Fraser Island)

European settlement in the early 1800s brought about the unfortunate displacement and extermination of many indigenous Australians around the continent. During this period in history, colonization had a devastating impact on the Butchulla People of K'gari. Much of their way of life was destroyed and their numbers were reduced from the thousands to around 300.

Colonization by Europeans had horrific effects on the Aboriginal Australians. These intelligent and admirable groups had physical, emotional, and spiritual ties to the land that we explore today. For example, the Butchella People of K'gari believed the perched lakes on the island played an important role in the Dreamtime, or creation story of Australia.

The island was renamed Fraser Island by the colonists, after a Scottish woman named Eliza Fraser who was shipwrecked on the island in the 1800s. Her stories led to the colonization and mistreatment of the Butchella People. Luckily, the Queensland government has recently decided to officially rename the island K'gari, out of respect for the Butchella people. 

Lake McKenzie

K'gari and the Butchella People Today

When you visit K'gari in the present day, you can still see the remnants of the fascinating Butchella People and their culture. K’gari contains well over 500 cultural sites with spiritual and social significance to the Butchulla People. Many of these were uncovered during a major archaeological project in 1976. The shell middens, stone artifacts, campsites, and scarred trees recorded during this time offer a window into the lives of this ancient culture. We can learn a lot about the Butchella People's beliefs in maintaining a balance between social, spiritual, and family connections.

Today there is only a handful of surviving Butchella descendants remaining. The ongoing management and preservation of their cultural sites on K'gari 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 K'gari as we know it today. If you come across a Butchella cultural site during your visit to K'gari, please respect the history and cultural significance of the area. Take only memories and leave only footprints!

person reading sign

To learn more about the history of K'gari, click here!

Click To Chat


  • Can answer all your Fraser Island questions
  • We will build you exclusive packages to save you money
  • Our experts are all experienced locals
  • Live chat with a real person

Quick Enquiry

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.