Great Keppel Island

The Woppaburra  

The traditional owners of the Keppel Islands are the Woppaburra people. They have occupied Keppel Bay between 4000 and 5000 years and there is direct evidence that they have occupied Great Keppel Island (Woppa Konomie) for more than 800 years however their ancestral land and sea country extends well beyond that with spiritual ownership.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) recognize that the shallow waters, smaller islands, reef formations, North and Great Keppel Islands are the sea and land country of the Woppaburra people, the Traditional Owners.

Archaeologist, Associate Professor Mike Rowland, has worked with the Woppaburra people to discover the lifestyle in which they lived. They used their homeland natural resources of the fringing reef, intertidal zones and relied on the Humpy Island Creek for fresh water. Several large middens reveal that they had made the Keppel Bay Islands their home and depending on the seasons, shelter and water; they occupied the Islands since Dreamtime began.

 Over time descendants connected with the land and sea physically and spiritually. Their knowledge of the land is an intimate one with a unique connectedness; acknowledging their ancestors, the elders and their Keppel Bay environment. 

Generation after generation, the Woppaburra people have embraced the traditions, customs and connection even though stories have been lost over time from the forced removal when the first European Settlers landed.

In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed the Endeavour through Keppel Bay and it was where he noted there were people on the islands. He named Keppel Bay after Rear Admiral Keppel and it was 1847 when John MacGillivray recorded the first British landing on Great Keppel Island, furthermore this was the moment when the Traditional Owners fled and hid.

The Konomie – Woppaburra Lifestyle was devastatingly threatened when settlers arrived in 1866 and set up grazing on the Keppel Islands. Through disease, shootings and slavery, there was not much hope for the Woppaburra people and sadly those who did survive were relocated to Yeppoon and other missions, however, almost all perished.


Today, the Konomie Woppaburra people are making efforts to reconnect with their culture on their homeland.

One of the major concerns regarding their homeland is the over development of the 

Great Keppel Island Resort and building on sacred land. 

Together, we stand and fight for Great Keppel Island to protect and preserve this natural wonderland for our

children and our grandchildren to enjoy just as it has been handed down to us.

We show Respect, in posting these photos which may contain images of people who are now deceased.

Great Keppel Island