New K’gari (Fraser Island) attraction to share local Butchulla culture, knowledge

THE Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation is hopeful the new interpretive centre located on K’gari (Fraser Island) will help preserve and pass on cultural knowledge to future Butchulla generations as well as visitors to the island.

SeaLink Fraser Island Group’s David Hay, Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour and USC’s Professor Joanne Scott listen on as the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation’s Chairperson Veronica Bird explains the significance of K’gari (Fraser Island) to the Butchulla community. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

The BAC’s chairperson Veronica Bird said her seven-year-old granddaughter never wanted to leave the centre at Kingfisher Bay Resort after receiving a sneak peek inside yesterday – the day before its official opening.

The K’gari World Heritage Discovery Centre was officially opened by Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour today (1 March, 2021).

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour officially opens the K’gari World Heritage Discovery Centre. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

The facility is geared towards increasing visitor understanding, appreciation and conservation of the world’s largest sand island.

Ms Bird said she spent about 35 minutes with her granddaughter walking around the centre looking at the various displays and information graphics.

“She never wanted to leave. She said nan, I have so many other questions,” explained Ms Bird.

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The centre is beautifully laid out with photos, information graphics and boards mounted on the walls.

The design and layout makes one feel like they’re walking around a museum or art gallery opposed to an information centre.

A quick whip around the room will help tourists better understand the history and cultural significance of K’gari and realise that it is more than just an island getaway with perfect Instagram backdrops.

BAC Chairperson Veronica Bird. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

Ms Bird said the BAC wants Butchulla children to learn more about their culture, country and language.

Similarly, she said it was important that tourists understand the significance of the island.

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“It is absolutely essential that they understand what our beliefs are around the creation of K’gari, the world’s largest sand island, and how it came into being through our eyes, the Butchulla people, and why it is called paradise,” Ms Bird said.

“It is absolutely essential that when tourists visit, they understand the importance of protecting country and why when they leave, they leave only footprints.”

Ms Bird said she would like to see the centre develop further in the years to come and teach people more about the Butchulla language.

“Language is the essence of who we are.”

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SeaLink Fraser Island Group General Manager David Hay said visitors must understand why the island is so special to the Butchulla people – but also why it is so fragile as an ecosystem.

SeaLink Fraser Island Group General Manager David Hay. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

The University of the Sunshine Coast played an important role in setting up the centre in terms of its design and layout, architecture and the information presented on the displays.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement) Professor Joanne Scott said the institution was proud of the work the students had created.

USC Professor Joanne Scott. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

Prof Scott said partnerships were key in creating such projects.

She acknowledged the roles played by Kingfisher Bay Resort, the BAC, Council and other organisations and individuals in helping provide content and photos.

Prof Scott said the timing of the centre’s opening was made even more significant by the bushfires that ravaged the island in recent months.

“Those shocking images seen locally and across the world reinforced how everyone has a responsibility to care for K’gari.”

Cr Seymour said the new interpretive centre would full a void in the visitors’ experience of K’gari.

“People will come here now and in a very short period of time get a very wide range of knowledge in terms of the culture, environment and history of K’gari that will significantly improve their experience when they go out and explore the wilderness,” said the mayor.

“By learning about the ancient Butchulla culture and the different ecosystems people will have a much better appreciation for the island than really just coming here and going to Lake McKenzie.”

Cr Seymour said the centre was the result of a fantastic partnership between the BAC, Kingfisher Bay Resort and the USC.

“Council was happy to assist (financially) because it really is an important step in the continuing development of K’gari’s visitor experience.”

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Cr Seymour said he hoped the information around the natural environment would help people understand the rules that are put in place to protect the island’s fauna and flora – especially the wongari – and why it is such a sacred and special place to the Butchulla people.

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