The original inhabitants of the former Noosa Shire were the Kabi Kabi or Gubbi Gubbi people, who inhabited an area from as far north as Fraser Island, south to Pumicestone Passage and west to the Conondale and Blackall Ranges. The exact number of Indigenous Australians living in the Noosa area is unknown but early accounts by explorers and journalists in the 1860s indicate that there were several hundred living on the Noosa waterways.  The forced removal of Aboriginal Peoples to settlements such as Cherbourg under laws enacted by the Queensland government in 1897 in 1897 resulted in there being very few Kabi Kabi people left in the Noosa area by the early 1900s. 

Learn more about the Crowe family’s story and how forced removal has affected their family in the short film Place of Crowes .

Although it is generally understood that Aboriginal peoples are nomadic, moving frequently to follow food sources, it is believed that the Kabi Kabi peoples of the coastal areas around Noosa did not need to move as far or as often given the abundance of food resources provided by the numerous waterways and rich subtropical rainforest.

Fresh and saltwater fish, dugong, eels and turtles and their eggs were plentiful, as were shellfish and crustaceans. The wetlands were home to many species of bird which provided meat and eggs. Mammals and reptiles such as possums, kangaroo, bandicoot, and snakes were also utilized as a food source. Local plant species that were eaten by the local aborigines include yams, waterlilies, tea tree, bunya nuts, honey, berries, figs, cabbage tree palm, wattle seeds, quandongs and native plum.

Evidence of Kabi Kabi activity in the Noosa area includes shell middens, stone tools, scar trees and Bora rings. Middens were formed from the discarded shells from the seafood eaten by the Kabi Kabi and were common along the banks of the Noosa River and Weyba, Doonella, Cooroibah and Cootharaba Lakes. These large accumulations of shell material were considered a ready resource by the European settlers and were used as road base in the early days of Tewantin settlement.

Learn more about the oyster feasts in Tewantin in the short film, Tewantin’s Oyster Feasts .

Indigenous Australians cracked, fractured and ground stone to shape tools that could be used for hunting and preparing food, including sharp stones for cutting and scraping as well as flat smooth stones for grinding seeds and rough plant material. Stones were also affixed to handles to create axes, clubs, and hammers. Many stone artefacts have been found in the Noosa area and the Noosa Shire Museum  in Pomona has a display of these items.

Indigenous Australians also used bark to make shields, water containers, canoes and roofing for shelters and many trees that had their bark removed were left scarred and these scars are still visible on trees around Noosa today.

Circular arrangements of stones for ceremonial activities such as corroborees and initiations were also created and there are several still in existence on the Sunshine Coast. However, given the ceremonial significance, the locations of these Bora rings are not common knowledge.


1799 Matthew Flinders is the first European in the area.

1823 Richard Parsons and John Finnegan were castaway and taken in by local indigenous groups and subsequently travelled through Coolum.

1827- 1833 Escaped convict John Graham lived with the Kabi Kabi people at Tewantin.

1837 After the Stirling Castle was wrecked on a reef off the Queensland Coast, Eliza Fraser spent time camped with the Aboriginal peoples at present day Elanda Point before being rescued by a party including John Graham (a convict) and Lieutenant Otter.

1842 Escaped convict James Bracefell (aka David Bracewell) who had been living with the Aboriginal people in the Cootharaba area was rescued by an exploration party despatched by Governor Gipps.

1842 Governor Gipps Bunya Proclamation limited European settlement on indigenous lands by forbidding the felling of the Bunya tree, a significant food source of the Kabi Kabi.

1859 Queensland separated from New South Wales and became an independent state.

1860 Bunya Proclamation was repealed by the Unoccupied Crown Lands Occupation Act, allowing timbergetter’s and squatter’s licenses to be granted for the formerly protected areas, bringing an influx of European settlers to the area.

1860s Massacre of Kabi Kabi people at Murdering Creek, near Lake Weyba.

1872 Approximately 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) encompassing the areas today known as Noosa Heads and Noosaville and the section from Sunshine Beach to Peregian Beach inland to Lake Weyba and Doonan was set aside as a reserve for Aboriginal Mission Purposes by proclamation of the Queensland Government.

1877 The Aboriginal mission on the western shore of Lake Weyba established by Methodist missionary Reverend Edward Fuller was closed. This was the only site known to have been used as an Aboriginal mission in the Noosa area.

1878 The Aboriginal Reserve was cancelled in November 1878 with the announcement that 1700 acres (378 hectares) would be opened for selection from January 15th, 1879 at the price of seven shillings and sixpence per acre, and 8250 areas (1833 hectares) would be surveyed for auction. About 526 hectares (or what is now mostly the Noosa National Park) was reserved for a township at Noosa Heads.

1880 Near Tewantin, the celebrated Aboriginal bushranger Jackey Campbell was captured in Goodchap’s paddock, eventually overpowered and trussed with Mrs Goodchap’s clothes line.

1887 A series of Aboriginal reserves were established in southeast Queensland and within a few years, most of the local Indigenous Australians remaining within the Noosa district had been removed to the Cherbourg settlement (formerly known as Barambah).

1897 The Queensland government enacted laws that forced the removal of Indigenous Peoples to reserves and over the next couple of years the last of the Kabi Kabi people in Noosa were removed to Cherbourg. It would be 25 years before they were released and able to return to Noosa.

Adams, R. J. L. (2000), Noosa and Gubbi Gubbi: the Land, the People, the Conflict, Tewantin: Ultreya Publications.

Noosa Council, Sergiacomoi, Leddy & Fesl, Eve (2004), Indigenous Cultural Heritage Study of Noosa Shire, Noosa: Noosa Shire Council,