30 years of K’gari World Heritage listing

The rich history and cultural significance of K’gari (Fraser Island) has been marked by a moving ceremony to acknowledge 30 years of the island being included on the World Heritage List.

Press release issued by Queensland Government, Wednesday, 7 December 2022.

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K’gari (Fraser Island). PHOTO: File / Shaun Ryan

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon last week joined the island’s Traditional Owners the Butchulla People, the K’gari World Heritage Advisory Committee and community on K’gari for the milestone.

Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari said K’gari was added to the World Heritage list in 1992 for meeting three of the World Heritage criteria – ongoing geological and biological processes best demonstrated by the island’s ancient dune systems, the superlative natural phenomena of its rainforests and freshwaters lakes, and its exceptional natural beauty.

“Almost every Queenslander has a memory of spending time on K’gari – whether that’s camping, spending time on the beach, at the resorts or 4WDing,” Mr Tantari said.

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“That’s because of its significant environmental value as the world’s largest sand island, but also a place with rich cultural history.

“It’s become one of the state’s most popular holiday destinations for families and international visitors, with 328,000 camper nights and some 56,000 vehicle permits issued just in 21-22.”

Minister Scanlon said the 30th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of the world heritage listing and what’s been done to protect this place, but also the journey ahead.

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At the ceremony, the Minister formally recognised the handback of another 670m2 of the island to the Butchulla People, following the handback of another 22 hectares earlier this year.

The Minister said the journey toward World Heritage listing was long and complex – from the first declaration of national park on the island in 1971, the cessation of mining in the 1970s and logging in 1991, to the recognition of the Butchulla People’s unbroken connection to county with the native title ruling in 2014 and 2019.

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“The world heritage listing 30 years ago cemented K’gari’s rich environmental and cultural values, putting it on a global platform alongside places like the Grand Canyon and Machup Picchu,” Minister Scanlon said.

“As a government we’ve continued to make sure that we protect those values. Values, which of course the Butchulla people have known for thousands of years with its traditional name – K’gari – literally meaning paradise.

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“The Butchulla People played a significant role in ensuring the island was recognised as a World Heritage Area and, last year, their voices contributed to the World Heritage Committee officially incorporating K’gari into the official name of the World Heritage Area.

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“There’s still a long way to go in terms of recognising the cultural history on this island, and for all Queenslanders to be able to recognise and enjoy not just its place as environmental paradise but also as one steeped in thousands of years of culture.”

Ms Devena Monro the Chairperson of the Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC) said she is proud to be part of the 30th anniversary celebrations and reiterates the importance of K’gari’s World Heritage listing. 

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“However, the celebration is bittersweet because 30 years ago we were still struggling to achieve recognition as the Traditional Owners of not only K’gari but of our homelands, Butchulla Country,” Ms Monro said.

“We still have a long way to go in our journey and building on the legacy of those who have fought so admirably for Butchulla People to be seen and heard.  “But we look forward to walking together to address the historical injustices and live in hope that Butchulla People will one day be restored to their rightful place on K’gari.”

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