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Butchulla Culture and People

Fraser Island is filled with the culture and history of the Butchulla people.

Butchulla country lies in the Great Sandy region on the south-east coast of Queensland, Australia. The Butchulla people are the traditional owners of K’gari (Fraser Island), a name which means paradise.

For more than 5,000 years, perhaps as many as 50,000 years, Butchulla people lived in harmony with the seasons and the land and sea, maintaining a balance between spiritual, social and family connections. Today the Butchulla people continue to walk the cultural pathway of their ancestors. K’gari (the Butchulla place name for Fraser Island), is a special place in their culture and lakes are an integral part of their dreaming.

When you are on the island, you may come across totems like the ones pictured here at Central Station. Each person had their own totem and the regard and importance of totems have been and are passed on through generations. No one is allowed to harm, hunt or eat their totem. In addition to totems, some places on the island have important significance to the Butchulla community so be sure to read the information boards around!

Today, spiritual and cultural connections are being fulfilled within the Butchulla community who are like extended family. The community is composed of those who are returned descendents of those removed from country, those who are Butchulla born and those who possess strong cultural connections.

Butchulla people want their messages—of care and respect for the land—to reach all people visiting the island.

Butchulla people have lived by three laws:

  • What is good for the land comes first
  • Do not take or touch anything that does not belong to you
  • If you have plenty, you must share

When on the island for your adventure, you will see signs with the message:

  • Galangoor djali! Galangoor.
  • Butchulla bilam, midiru K’gari galangoor nyin djaa.
  • Ngalmu galangoor Biral and Biralgan bula nyin djali!
  • Wanya nyin yangu, wanai djinang djaa.

This message is a ‘welcome to country’ message from the Butechella which was written by Butchulla Elder Uncle Malcolm Burns which translates as ‘Good day. Welcome! Butchulla people, Traditional Owners of K’gari, welcome you to country. May all our good spirits be around you throughout the day. Wherever you go leave only footprints.’

Written with help from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.