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Indigenous Tourism Queensland

The Butchulla Lore

What's good for the land must come first

Hunters, aware that animals found on the island could die out if hunted excessively, only took what was necessary for food. Even today, scarce resources are protected, often using the totem system which forbids their use.


Monitoring soil, plants and animals provided clues to Aboriginal people on how to best manage their land. Boorangoora (meaning 'waters of wisdom' and also known as Lake McKenzie) was a place for decision-making. The wise ones would meet here to listen for messages on the breezes sent from the spirits.


Butchulla people camped near fresh water sources such as Boorangoora to eat and drink. They did not swim in these waterholes, taking care not to dirty their source of drinking water. If the land grew tired, they moved camp to allow rain, sun and wind to cleanse the site. 

Don't take what doesn't belong to you

Respect for the rights of others was, and remains, integral to Butchulla way of life. Women and men kept their business separate. Each group guarded their own knowledge and sacred sites.


This respect extended to the plants and animals that provided of the people. Butchulla people did not cut down trees, but gathered branches for shelters, bark for canoes, piccabeen palm fronds for useful baskets, and vines for nets. This ensured continued growth of plants for future use. 

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If you've plenty, you must share

Tourism is not new to K'gari (Fraser Island). Each winter, as certain fish, tailor and mullet arrived in waters around the island, Aboriginal people from other language groups trod established pathways looking to share this bounty.

They sought permission from elders, or were invited by them, to cross Great Sandy Strait and enter Butchulla land not the western side of the island. Numbers would swell from around 400 people to a couple of thousand throughout the season.


Visitors were always made welcome, as sharing was a way of life. With summer's return, seasonal seafood moved on, as did these visitors. It was everyone's responsibility to live the 'proper way' according to lore. 

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