Australia’s Fraser Island is the latest destination to have its Aboriginal name restored.
The world’s largest sand island, which is located off the coast of Queensland state about 250 km (155 miles) north of Brisbane, will now be officially known as K’Gari.
K’Gari means “paradise” in the local Butchulla language, and the Butchulla people have been the owners and guardians of this land since well before the days of European colonization and settlement.
The island, long popular with both foreign and domestic tourists, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992. It was cited for its distinctive biological conditions, including “majestic remnants of tall rainforest growing on tall sand dunes, a phenomenon believed to be unique in the world.”
It is also home to a diverse group of rare or endangered animals, including the eastern ground parrot and the Fraser Island sand skink. UNESCO already refers to the island as K’Gari.
A traditional smoking ceremony was held at the Kingfisher Bay Resort on September 19 as part of the renaming celebration.
“The name change recognizes and honors the Butchulla peoples and their traditions, their culture and their ongoing connection to Country,” Meaghan Scanlon, Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs, said in a statement.
She added: “The Palaszczuk Government (Annastacia Palaszczuk is the premier of Queensland) recognizes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island heritage and cultures, which represent an enduring and ongoing connection to Country for over 60,000 years.”
However, community members caution that restoring the original name may not be the end of this story.
“We have been campaigning for years to change the island’s name,” said Jade Gould, a spokesperson for the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (BAC), in a statement. “But it is a hollow symbol if our rights are not recognized by the Queensland government.”
In 1993, Australia’s federal government introduced the Native Title Act, through which authorities could recognize an Indigenous group’s ownership of their traditional lands.
Other destinations around Australia have been changing or reverting to Aboriginal names over the past decades. Most famous is Uluru, which was previously known as Ayers Rock.
Elsewhere in Queensland, Gheebulum Kunungai National Park Mulgumpin is the official name for what was previously called Moreton Island.
Currently, Indigenous people comprise about 3% of Australia’s population.
Top image: K’Gari photo via Adobe Stock.