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Fraser Island History

Founder of Fraser Island, James Fraser

The history of Fraser Island began with the Butchulla people who were the original aboriginal inhabitants of the region. They called it K’gari which can be translated to mean “paradise”. There was a sizeable population of aboriginal people on Fraser Island due to the abundance of food and fresh water. The aboriginal people occupied the Fraser Island region for at least 5000 years prior to the first Europeans coming on the scene. Matthew Flinders sailed this section of Australia’s east coast in 1802 and called into Fraser Island to replenish water supplies and fire wood. Botanical specimens were also collected for return to be studied in England.

In 1836 the “Stirling Castle” was wrecked on Fraser Island and the survivors lived with the aborigines until rescued by a search party from Brisbane. Eliza Fraser was one of the passengers and after the death of her husband from natural causes, toured the world telling of the hardships she endured. The island was originally named Fraser’s Island by European settlers after Eliza Fraser.

In more modern times Fraser Island has been a source of wealth from mining, timber and tourism. There were considerable deposits of rutile on Fraser Island and the sands were mined for this resource from 1949 until the 1970’s when the islands tourism potential and a protest campaign brought this activity to an end. Fraser island was also logged very heavily as the forests there contained many valuable species. The Satinay in particular was heavily logged. It is the world’s hardest hardwood and impervious to marine worms. The shores of the Suez Canal were lined with its timber, removed from the forests of Fraser Island. Inevitably, the practice of logging on Fraser Island was terminated and the forests left to regenerate and today very little evidence of these practices can be seen.

Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island

In 1992 Fraser Island was added to the world heritage list and is now protected by this and National Park status. It is now one of Australia’s leading tourist attractions and its pristine lakes and magnificent rainforests attract thousands of tourists every year. Fraser Island is best reached from Hervey bay or Rainbow Beach and you can fly direct to Hervey Bay from Sydney or Brisbane. There are also resorts with four star or three star accommodation on the island. Kingfisher Bay resort is the most popular of these.

The history of Fraser Island may be troubled but the majesty of all of its natural attractions are now preserved for all time.