One of Australia’s most famous islands will officially change its title after a protracted campaign by Indigenous elders against ‘lies’ from the woman it is named after
- Fraser Island in Queensland has become K’gari
- It was previously named after Eliza Fraser
One of Australia’s best-known tourist destinations has officially changed its name after a lengthy campaign by Indigenous elders.
Fraser Island in Queensland has been renamed K’gari at the behest of the Butchulla people.
Elders had long campaigned against the name of the sand island after Captain James Fraser and his wife Eliza, who were shipwrecked on the island in 1836 along with 18 crew and passengers.
Eliza Fraser survived as her husband and most of the others perished, and after coming back to life in England, she again told stories of enslavement by barbaric and cannibalistic Aboriginal people on the island.
The Butchulla people have long denounced her version of events as lies and have now succeeded in having her name removed from the island and replaced with their term for the land.
The Queensland government on Wednesday took the final step in the process of restoring the island’s traditional name.
Chantel Van Wamelen, Butchulla’s land and sea watch coordinator, said the official recognition honored the elders who had fought for a change.
Fraser Island in Queensland (pictured) has officially adopted its original name, K’gari
“Part of the process is telling the truth and for people to recognize that it’s always been called K’gari,” she said.
“It is insulting to us that our island was named after a woman who told lies about our people, which led to many of our people being removed from the island and massacres committed.”
While Eliza Fraser claimed she was being held against her will by the Butchulla people, they say the locals fed the castaways and tried to integrate them into the community, assigning them food preparation and other tasks and trying to treat their sunburns.
Captain Fraser did not survive and is described as dying of disease, malnutrition or injuries from spears.
Some of the other sailors reached the colony and sent a rescue party for Mrs. Fraser.
When she remarried another sea captain, she returned to England and gave lurid speeches and testimonies of Aboriginal abuse.
Her testimony contributed to a campaign by European settlers to drive the Butchulla people off the island and send them on missions.
The island was named after Eliza Fraser (pictured) who was shipwrecked on the island and gave lurid accounts of mistreatment by cannibalistic Aboriginal people – something their descendants claim to be lies.
Ms Fraser turned her misadventures into a lucrative speaking career, embellishing and changing her story several times after she returned to the UK.
“It has been a really long process and now that official place name has been changed is a great achievement for our people,” said Ms Van Wamelen.
‘We have such a unique ecosystem here and there are such rich cultural and ecological values on this island.
“It’s very special for us to call this place home.”
Name K’gari recovered: key facts
The restoration of the K’gari name is the result of a decades-long campaign by the traditional owners of Butchulla
K’gari is known as Great Sandy Island and Fraser Island
With a length of 122 km, it is the largest sand island in the world
In 2011, Bligh’s government added K’gari as an alternative name for the place Fraser Island
The Fraser Island portion of the Great Sandy National Park was turned into K’gari (Fraser Island) National Park in 2017
In 2021, the name of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area was changed to K’gari (Fraser Island)
In October 2014, the federal court formally recognized the non-exclusive indigenous title rights and interests of the Butchulla people
In 2022, the Queensland Government held a consultation process on officially restoring the K’gari name