An Australian island in the state of Queensland has been known as Fraser Island for almost 200 years.
Now, after a decades-long campaign by the Indigenous Butchulla people, the Queensland government has officially changed the island’s name to K’gari, which means “paradise.”
“K’gari,” Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier, wrote on Twitter.
“To the Butchulla people, this island has only ever had one name,” Palaszczuk continued. “Today, we’re making it official.”
Indeed, the name K’gari has always been used by the Butchulla.
“In our creation stories, our stories handed down by generations, it has always been K’gari, and it always will be,” said Gayle Minniecon, chairperson of the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation, according to CNN.
“K’gari means to me, home,” added Joyce Bonner, Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation Language and Cultural coordinator, CNN notes. “Home amongst my people, the descendants, the ancestors, the Midiru [traditional owners]. It’s our place. It’s what we call home.”
All About K’gari
K’gari, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the world’s largest sand island. Located just off Australia’s coast, it is known for its 75-mile-long beach.
“The property has exceptional natural beauty with over 250 kilometers of clear sandy beaches with long, uninterrupted sweeps of ocean beach, strikingly colored sand cliffs, and spectacular blowouts,” according to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. “Inland from the beach are majestic remnants of tall rainforest growing on sandy dunes and half of the world’s perched freshwater dune lakes.”
As if that’s not appealing enough, K’gari is popular with domestic and international tourists alike, in part, due to advertising campaigns.
“Drive on wide-open beaches with the wind in your hair, marvel at shifting sand blows, swim in iridescent waters, and witness playful marine life just meters from shore,” Tourism Australia explains. “Complete with a blend of holiday resorts and wilderness camping, there’s an adventure for everyone on K’gari.”
An Overdue Name Change
The island’s name change corrects what many people have called almost 200 years of injustice.
K’gari was originally called Great Sandy Island by Europeans for obvious reasons. Its name wasn’t changed to Fraser Island until after a Scotswoman named Eliza Fraser was shipwrecked there in the 1830s, according to The Guardian.
Fraser later wrote a tale describing her “captivity” by the Butchulla people, who she described as “savages” and “cannibals.” While her story was quickly debunked by fellow survivors, the lies spread nonetheless, according to The Guardian.
“The name ‘Fraser Island’ is a tribute to Eliza Fraser — a woman whose narrative directly led to the massacre and dispossession of the Butchulla people,” said Jade Gould, a Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation official, according to Australia Geographic.
Minniecon, from the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation, said the name change back to K’gari corrects a historic wrong for the Butchulla people.
“It was through disrespect to the Butchulla people that her name, K’gari — the home of the Butchulla people — was taken away,” said Minniecon. “Thankfully, it is now through respect to the Butchulla people that K’gari — her name — has been reclaimed. Our oral history, our creation story, will now be told and learnt as it should be.”
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