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Maroochy Region

Maroochy Region

The name "Maroochy" comes from a local Aboriginal legend. It tells how Ninderry, a rival from another clan, stole a beautiful young woman called Maroochy from Coolum, the man whom she was to marry.

When Coolum rescued his bride by stealth, Ninderry chased them. He caught up with them, and, throwing a boomerang, succeeded in knocking off Coolum's head, which rolled into the sea and is represented today by Mudjimba Island. His body is represented by Mount Coolum. For his treacherous attack, Ninderry was turned into stone by the wrathful gods.

Maroochy fled inland, where she wept so copiously that her tears flowed down the mountain to form the Maroochy River.

Maroochy district

The first inhabitants of the Maroochy district were the Aboriginal people of the Gubbi Gubbi language group, which consisted of a number of tribes including the Nalbo, Gubbi Gubbi, Dallambara and Undanbi.

For perhaps as many as 20,000 years they hunted the ranges, fished the rivers and gathered seafood from the ocean. The burning of the countryside at appropriate times was a regular practice. Every third year, hundreds of Aboriginal people travelled to the Blackall Range for feasting on bunya nuts, exchanging goods, initiation ceremonies, organising fights, performing corroborees and unifying their culture.

The Aboriginal people had no central government. The basic unit of society was the clan of perhaps seventy people, owning their homeland and governing themselves. A “tribe” was a group of clans who spoke a common language or dialect, and considered themselves to be part of a distinct cultural or ceremonial group, but who did not acknowledge a common leader, e.g. the Gubbi Gubbi language group included the Nalbo, Gubbi Gubbi, Dallambara and Undanbi tribes.

By the time Europeans came to the Sunshine Coast, the tribes had formal distinct territories with clearly defined boundaries. Tribal boundaries were often marked by scarred trees along the sides of the pathways. There was a network of Aboriginal pathways across the Sunshine Coast - the main one ran from Beerburrum to Cooran and the North Coast Railway line was later built alongside it. Undanbi territory lay to the East and Nalbo to the west of the pathway.

With the coming of Europeans, the local Aboriginal people could no longer pursue their nomadic way of life and progressively lost the use of their resource areas. In 1897, legislation was passed which legalised the removal of Aboriginal people from white settlements. Many of those living in the Maroochy area were resettled on Fraser Island, and later taken to a reserve at Cherbourg.

Significant dates in European contact

1823 – Castaways Richard Parsons and John Finnegan, “adopted” by a Brisbane Aboriginal tribal group, and travelled through Coolum with them

1824 – European settlement of Brisbane

1842 – Bunya Proclamation

"It having been represented to the Governor that a district exists to the Northward of Moreton Bay, in which a fruit-bearing Tree abounds, called Bunya, or Banya Bunya, and that the Aborigines from considerable distances resort at certain times of the year to this District for the purpose of eating the fruit of the said Tree: - His Excellency is pleased to direct that no Licences be granted for the occupation of any Lands within the said District in which the Bunya or Banya Bunya Tree is found.

And notice is hereby given that the several Crown Commissioners in the New England and Moreton Bay Districts have been instructed to remove any person who may be in the unauthorised occupation of Land whereon the said Bunya or Banya Bunya Trees are to be found. His Excellency has also directed that no Licences to cut Timber be granted within the said Districts."

The effect of the Proclamation was to create an Aboriginal reserve from near Mooloolah, into the Blackall Ranges, to the North Maroochy River.

As a result, no grazing licences and few timber licences were granted for the majority of the Maroochy District.

1852 – Six crew members of shipwrecked barque “Thomas King” passed through Coolum while attempting to reach Brisbane. They were continually harassed by Aboriginal people. Only two crew members reached Brisbane alive.

Possibly this incident hastened official resolve to settle coastal areas to the north of Brisbane.

1859 – Queensland became an independent colony from NSW

1860 – Unoccupied Crown Lands occupation Act was one of the first Acts passed by Queensland Parliament. It repealed Governor Gipps’ 1842 Bunya Proclamation and provided for squatters’ and timbergetters’ licences.

1860s – Massacre of Aboriginal people at Murdering Creek, Lake Weyba.

1865 – existence of a Bora Ring on private property along Yandina Creek was known to Europeans

1897-1965 – Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. Aboriginal people were moved to reserves.

1905 – Barambah Aboriginal Settlement, near Cherbourg, was established at Murgon. Most of the remaining Maroochy indigenous population was removed to Cherbourg.

1967 – Aboriginal Relics and Preservation Act. Any Aboriginal implements became the property of the Crown – not to be taken, defaced, damaged or interfered with.

Local indigenous resources


The following books are located in Sunshine Coast Libraries' local studies collection:

  • Aboriginal pathways in southeast Queensland and the Richmond River
  • Along the Sunshine Coast (Aboriginal legends)
  • Bonyi gathering: notes on the history of the Aborigines of the Sunshine Coast
  • Bush heritage: an introduction to the history of plant and animal use by Aboriginal people and colonists in the
  • Brisbane and Sunshine Coast areas
  • Conned: a Koori perspective (by Dr Eve Fesl)
  • Cooloola Coast: Noosa to Fraser Island - the Aboriginal and settler histories of a unique environment
  • A dumping ground: the history of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve
  • An evaluation of knowledge of the massacre of Murries at Murdering Creek, Sunshine Coast
  • Four Bunya seasons in Baroon 1842-1845
  • History of the Aborigines in the Buderim area
  • In the tracks of a rainbow: indigenous culture and legends of the Sunshine Coast
  • In the Wake of the Raftsmen – Vol 3 (in “Queensland Heritage”)
  • Linguistic survey of south-eastern Queensland
  • Lost dreaming: aspects of traditional Aboriginal life of the Coolum district
  • Noosa and Gubbi Gubbi: the land, the people, the conflict
  • Queensland archaeological research, Vol. 1, Oct 1984
  • Records guide volume one: a guide to Queensland government records relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
  • Islander peoples
  • Science, race & faith: a life of John Mathew
  • The Simpson letterbook. Cultural and historical records of Queensland. Number 1
  • Some original views around Kilcoy. Book 1 - The Aboriginal perspective
  • The story of Maroochy
  • A study in black and white: the Aborigines in Australia
  • A submerged history: Baroon Aborigines and white invasion
  • Sunshine Coast Aboriginal culture before the white man
  • Tom Petrie's reminiscences of early Queensland
  • Tree fern and honey bee: a study of Aboriginal Australian ancestors of the Mapleton district
  • Two representative tribes of Queensland: with an inquiry concerning the origin of the Australian race
  • Written in sand: a history of Fraser Island

Picture Sunshine Coast

Historical photographic collection online in the Sunshine Coast Libraries catalogue.

Oral history

Interview with June Bond, an indigenous woman from the local Gubbi Gubbi tribal group. June tells of what happened to her family and their removal to the Aboriginal Reserve at Cherbourg.

View full list of oral histories.

Last Updated 01-Jun-16