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Butchulla People and Country

Our culture - land and sea

Butchulla people

Butchulla people are the traditional owners and custodians of K’gari (Fraser Island).

We are the decendants of: the Sandycape (Doolan / Walker / Freeman) Family Group (constituted by descendants of Father / Mother of Gracie and Maudie Daramboi); the Aldridge / Blackman Family Group (constituted by descendants of Mother of Jessie Aldridge’s mother and Lappy); the Richards Family Group (constituted by descendants of Mother of Charles Richards); the Owens Family Group (constituted by descendants of Garry Owens); the Wonamutta Family Group (constituted by descendants of Annie Morris / Anna Gala nee Morris and descendants of Jack Morris); the Brown Family Group (constituted by descendants of Granny Polcus / Jenny Brown and descendants of Willy Brown / Mamboo / Namboo); the Gundy Family Group (constituted by descendants of George Gundy); the Wondunna Family Group (constituted by descendants of Willy Wondunna); the Dalungdalee Family Group (constituted by descendants of Mary Ann (mother of Susan Rooney); the Bennett Family Group (constituted by descendants of Roger Bennett); the Coulson Family Group (constituted by descendants of Percy Coulson); the Dundabarra / Broome Family Group (constituted by descendants of Mother of John and Rosie Broome); the Wheeler Family Group (constituted by descendants of Mother of Clara, Henry, Percy and Lucy Wheeler)

Butchulla Laws

Our ancient and enduring cultural connection with K’gari continues to be guided by our Three Laws:

Minyang galangoor gu djaa, kalim baya-m – What is good for the land comes first

Butchulla People only take what is necessary for food, to avoid over-harvesting of animals and plants relied upon for survival. Even today, scarce resources are protected, in line with customary practices – including totem systems which forbid the taking of certain species.

Minyang waa nyinung, waa bunmalee dhama-n – Do not take or touch anything that does not belong to you

Respect for the rights of others was, and remains, integral to the Butchulla way of life. Women and men guard their own knowledge and sacred sites, and different clans had responsibilities for, and rights over, certain species or areas of K’gari.

Wangou nyin gamindu biralunbar, nyin wumga-nIf you have plenty, you must share

Butchulla People have a long history of welcoming and managing visitors to K’gari. Each winter, when there was an abundance of certain fish (including tailor and mullet) in waters surrounding K’gari, Aboriginal people from other language groups came to share in this bounty. They sought permission from Elders to cross Great Sandy Strait and enter Butchulla land on the western side of the island. Throughout the season, numbers would swell from around 400 people to a couple of thousand. All visitors to K’gari were expected to live the ‘proper way’, in accordance with Butchulla Law.

Butchulla culture, customs and laws survive through unbroken lineage within our traditional land and sea estate. Our connection to K’gari is continuing and contemporary and is linked to our supreme ancestral beings. Butchulla respect, connection to, and responsibility for our land and sea country is of great significance to us. We are the rightful custodians of K’gari and have been for tens of thousands of years.

Butchulla country - K’gari

K’gari is our word for paradise. For Butchulla people, K'gari is much more than the largest sand island in the world, it is our homeland - it holds our history, our culture, and our future. Our people have lived and cared for K'gari for millennia and it is where we continue the tradition of looking after country.

Its status as a World Heritage Area marks it as a globally significant biocultural land and seascape, as "an outstanding example of ongoing biological, hydrological and geomorphological process".

It is a place of exceptional natural beauty and cultural richness, with over 250 kilometres of clear sandy beaches with long uninterrupted sweeps of ocean beach, strikingly coloured sand cliffs, spectacular sand blows, majestic remnants of tall rainforest, and the world's largest unconfined aquifer on a sand island.

It is a marvel of unrivalled beauty - and to Butchulla people, it is home.

K’gari creation

(From stories told by direct descendent and Elder of the Butchulla people – Olga Miller)

Beiral, the great God in the sky, made all the people.  But after he made the people, Beiral realised that the people had no lands! So Beiral sent a messenger, Yendingie, to solve the problem and create lands for the people. Yendingie came down from the sky, and set to work to make the sea, and then the land. When Yendingie arrived at what is now known as Hervey Bay, he had a helper – the beautiful white spirit called Princess K’Gari.

K’Gari was a great helper, and helped Yendingie make the seashores, the mountain ranges, the lakes and the rivers. Princess K’Gari enjoyed her work very much and worked tirelessly to create all this natural beauty. One day Yendingie was concerned, and said to her, “K’Gari, you better rest, otherwise you will be too tired to continue our work.  There are some rocks over there in the sea. Why don’t you go and lie down and have a sleep?”

So Princess K’gari lay down on the rocks and had a long and deep sleep. When she awoke she said to Yendingie, “I think this is the most beautiful place we have ever created. Please, Yendingie, may I stay here forever?” “Oh no, K’Gari, I cannot allow that. You are a spirit, and you belong here with me!” But K’Gari pleaded with him, “Please, please Yendingie … I could still look up into the sky and see what you are doing. I would love to stay here.”

Finally Yendingie agreed. “You may stay here, but you cannot stay in spirit form. I will need to change you.” So he changed her into a beautiful island. So she wouldn’t be lonely, he then made some beautiful trees and flowers, and some lakes that were specially mirrored so that she could see into the sky. He made creeks and laughing waters that would become her voice, and birds and animals and people to keep her company. He gave these people knowledge and laws, and told them what to do, and how to procreate, so that their children and ancestors would always be there to keep K’Gari company.

And she is still there today, looking up at the sky in one of the truly most beautiful places on earth! She is very happy in, and as, “paradise”.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are advised that this site might contain the names, images, and voices of people who have died.