Fraser Island gets two new names

FRASER Island could now officially be called “island of many names”.

The names K'gari and Gari have been endorsed by the Department of Environment and Resource Management, in a nod to the traditional owners of the island.

“The alternative names of K'gari and Gari are an appropriate way to formally recognise Fraser Island's indigenous owners, the Butchulla and Badtjala people,” said DERM's regional services director (south-east) Randall Hart.

“This acknowledgement means that the alternative names can be used in formal circumstances, such as on maps and charts, in addition to the island's more commonly known name.”

He said while the island would still be named after shipwreck survivor Eliza Fraser, the indigenous names would be added to official documents to recognise their historical significance.

But island tourism providers and businesses won't need to order any new paperwork, as the alternative names will not affect their postal addressing.

“They may wish to update their brochures with this new information once their existing means of advertisement has been exhausted,” Mr Hart said.

The names were chosen after extensive consultation with representatives of the Butchulla and Badtjala people, local and state governments, historical societies, the Fraser Island World Heritage Advisory Group and other community groups.

The move to a double-barrelled name has been almost 40 years in the making, after the idea was raised in the early 1970s by the indigenous community.

But Butchulla elder Mackie Burns, who has campaigned for decades to rename the island, believes while the battle is over the war is not yet won.

“I feel good that it has been made official,” Mr Burns said.

“But when it is just called K'gari, not Fraser Island, I'll feel even better.”

He said he would continue to fight for the name Fraser to be dropped, as it was inappropriate to name the island after a woman who painted its inhabitants as murderers.

“She lied about my ancestors being cannibals,” Mr Burns said.

“What is better – to name the island after a liar, or to name it after a princess?”

He said the Butchulla name came from legends about the princess k'gari, pronounced gurri, who did not want to leave the beautiful area so was transformed into the island itself.

Mr Burns said he accepted it might take a long time for the traditional names to be given mainstream acceptance.

“Ayers Rock didn't become Uluru overnight,” he said.

“At first it was Ayers Rock-Uluru, then they dropped Ayers Rock.

“That is the way we want it to go for K'gari.”

Fraser Coast Mayor Mick Kruger said the widespread use of K'gari and Gari could be a boost to tourism and businesses would still be able to refer to the island as Fraser Island, so the years of developing the tourism brand would not be lost.

“Time will tell whether the Butchulla or Badtjala names become more popular than the European alternatives,” he said.

Topics:  fraser island k'gari

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