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Past and Present of Great Keppel Island
25 Sep 2013
Published To
Description

Indigenous Culture and History

The traditional owners of the Keppel Islands are the Ganomi-Woppaburra people who is thought to have lived on the Great Keppel Island for some 700 years and on North Keppel Island for approximate 5, 000 years.

Archaelogical and Anthropological research detail remains of food and tools recovered from middens that reveal the original inhabitants lived off the inter-tidal zone, fringing reefs and surrounding sea.

The last seventeen Woppaburra people were forcibly removed from the Keppels in 1902 and sent to Aboriginal missions on the mainland. Moves by the descendants of the Woppaburra people have finally seen them given freehold of approximately 173 hectares on Great Keppel Island by the Queensland Government and Granted to the traditional ownerrs, the Woppaburra Land Trust.

European Culture and History

History records Captain James Cook as the first European to have travelled through the area, sailing through the Keppel group on the 25-27 May, 1770. He was to name Great Keppel Island, Keppel Bay and Cape Capricorn. Cook did not land on the island, nor Matthew Flinders, who would have sighted the island in 1804 during his circumnavigation of Australia. It was to be a naturalist named McGillivray, who was to be the first European to set foot on the island, landing near Leeke's Creek in 1847. Of course Aborigines had been using the island for thousands of years prior to this. There are well preserved middens (mounds of shells) at the western end of Long Beach.

The first lease on the island was taken out by James Paige in 1908. It was transferred to N.C. O'Neil in 1918. After O'Neils death in 1923 it was taken over by his wife Lizzie who subsequently married a local fisherman, Ralph Leeke. Both Leeke's Creek and Leeke's Beach are named after the couple whose house and shearing shed still stand on land behind and above mangroves.

The island's first resort, Silver Sands, was established on the island in the late 1950's.

A new resort was opened in 1967, the airtrip was built in 1975 by TAA or Trans-Australian Airlines and it was modernised and updated and was closed in 2008 for re-development. Today it is operated by Accor Asia-Pacific and Contiki who have spent $3.5 million refurbishing the property.

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