Kabi Kabi
Two Representative Tribes of Queensland - A Native of the Kabi Tribe.jpg
Regions with significant populations
South East Queensland

The Kabi Kabi[a] people, otherwise known as Gubbi Gubbi are an Aboriginal Australian people native to south-eastern Queensland. They are now classified as one of several Murri language groups in Queensland.


As is often the case, ethnonyms distinguishing one tribe from another select the word used by any one group for the concept 'no', which is the meaning of kabi/gubi/gabi.[2][3] However, AIATSIS's Austlang database prefers Gubbi Gubbi,[4] but this spelling has been deemed ficticion by The Federal Court of Australia.[5] A 1998 article by historian Malcolm D Prentis states that the "Gubbi Gubbi" form was the preferred name at his time of writing.[6] However, as seen in the native title claims detailed below and the author of the "Gubbi Gubbi" website, which purports to represent the Gubbi Gubbi Traditional Owners, there is disagreement both about the name and which group(s) represent the nation or peoples known as Gubbi Gubbi or Kabi Kabi.[7] The Kabi Kabi Aboriginal Corporation was reconstituted with a new board in 2008, and has "a commercial partnership with North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health (NCACCH)".[8]

Various spellings exist in colonial records of the ethnonym:


John Mathew, who lived among them, described the Kabi Kabi lands as roughly coextensive with the Mary River Basin, though stretching beyond it north to the Burrum River and south along the coast itself.[10] He estimated their territory to cover 8,200 square miles (21,000 km2). According to Norman Tindale, however, the Gubbi Gubbi people were an inland group living in the Wide Bay–Burnett area, and their lands extended over 3,700 square miles (9,600 km2) and lay west of Maryborough. The northern borders ran as far as Childers and Hervey Bay. On the south, they approached the headwaters of the Mary River and Cooroy. Westwards, they reached as far as the Coast Ranges and Kilkivan.[9] Gubbi Gubbi country is currently located between Pumicestone Road, near Caboolture in the south, through to Childers in the north. Their country was originally rain forest, with cleared areas created by regular firing of the scrub.[9][b]

The neighbouring tribes were the Turrbal to the south, the Taribelang north, Goreng Goreng to their northwest and the Wakka Wakka westwards.[11]


Main article: Gubbi Gubbi language

The language of the Kabi Kabi people was simply, Kabi Kabi.[12] They took their name from the pale honey gathered from the eucalypts of the hinterland.[13] The Gubbi Gubbi group claims their language is Gabi Gabi.[14] These languages consist of closely related dialects belonging to the Waka-Kabic branch of the Pama-Nyungan languages. The Australian English word coolabah, denoting a type of Eucalyptus, was borrowed from Kabi Kabi.

One variety of the language was first described by the Reverend William Ridley on the basis of notes taken from an interview with James Davis in 1855.[15] Davis lived among the Ginginbara clan and called it Dippil,[c] a word however that early Gubbi Gubbi informants appear to have been unfamiliar with.[15]

History of contact

John Mathew's 1910 map of the country of the Kabi and Wakka peoples.
John Mathew's 1910 map of the country of the Kabi and Wakka peoples.

Some Kabi Kabi died in the mass poisoning of upwards of 60 Aboriginal on the Kilcoy run in 1842.[16] A further 50-60 are said to have been killed by food laced with arsenic at Whiteside Station in April 1847.[17] As colonial entrepreneurs pushed into their territory to establish pastoral stations, they together with the Butchulla set up a fierce resistance: from 1847 to 1853, 28 squatters and their shepherds were killed.[18] In June 1849 two youths, the Pegg brothers, were speared on the property while herding sheep. Gregory Blaxland, the 7th son of the eponymous explorer Gregory Blaxland took vengeance, heading a vigilante posse of some 50 squatters and station hands and, at Bingera, ambushed a group of 100 sleeping myalls of the "Gin gin tribe" who are usually identified now as the Gubbi Gubbi.[19] They had feasted on stolen sheep. Marksmen picked off many, even those fleeing by diving into the Burnett River. The slaughter was extensive, and the bones of many of the dead were uncovered on the site many decades later.[20][21][22] Blaxland was in turn killed in a payback action sometime in July–August 1850. His death was revenged in a further large-scaled massacre of tribes in the area.[d]

The escaped convict James Davis, in addition to dwelling with several other tribes, is said to have lived for a time with the Kabi Kabi.[23] John Mathew, a clergyman turned anthropologist, also spent five years with them at Manumbar and mastered their language. He described their society in a 1910 monograph, Two Representative Tribes of Queensland.[24][6] The Kabi Kabi people he grew up with numbered no more than a score by the early 1880s,[25] and by 1906, after they had been forcibly removed to the Barambah reserve, (an Aboriginal reserve created under the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897[26] ), he stated that only 3-4 full-blooded members of the group remained among the 'remnants'.[27]

Culture and people

Kabi Kabi people of Yabber (Imbil)
Kabi Kabi people of Yabber (Imbil)

Kabi Kabi people – their official name - shown in early history books, articles and present day (2021) land claims[28] is used over the form Gubbi Gubbi often mentioned in past land claims and articles.[5] The Kabi Kabi were one of the hosts for the great bunya nut festivals every three years, which attracted many people from distant areas to the area of the Blackall Range.[29][30]

The Queensland lungfish was native to Kabi Kabi waters and the species fell under a taboo among them, forbidding its consumption. It was known in their language as "dala".[31]

Their initiation ceremonies (kivar-yēngga/man-making) took place at a site with a dhur, or bora circle and were presided over by a kamaran (headman). The most notable sites selected for initiation were at Boobangery[32] on the Yabber run, Waraba near Caboolture, and Biuoraba near Ipswich.[33]

Social organisation

The Kabi Kabi were divided into several clans or bora:

Clan name Meaning Location
Dauwa-bora Noise of hacking people North of Mount Bopple
Gunda-bora Cabbage Palm people Mount Bopple
Gigar-bora Sweet people Widgee
Kaiya-bora Bite people near Widgee
Kunyam-bora Pine tree people South of Mount Bopple
Kuli-bora Native bee people South Burnett
Baiyam-bora Pipe people Yabba Creek (Imbil)[34]
Butyin-bora unknown Musket Flat[35]
Wityin-bora unknown near Maryborough[35]
Wanggur-bora unknown unknown
Kinayin-bora unknown unknown[35]
Jakalin-bora unknown unknown

Native title claims

Further information: Native title in Australia

There has been a number of native title claims by various groups of contemporary Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people, all through the same representative body, the Southern and Western Queensland Region.[36][37]

One group, under Eve Fesl AM,[honours 1] using the "Gubbi Gubbi" spelling, lodged three claims. A claim lodged in 1996 was for an area of Glasshouse Mountains, registered in 1996 and dismissed in 2007.[38] A second claim lodged in 1996[39] was accepted for registration,[40] although it was noted that two people who stated that they were "Kabi person[s]" had not given their consent to use their family history, or authorise this claim.[41] This claim was discontinued.[40] The representative Dyungungoo corporation website displays the area mapped as part of the process of claiming native title in 1999.[42][40] A third claim was lodged in February 2008[43] and discontinued two months later.[44]

Other groups of descendants, using the "Kabi Kabi" spelling of the name, have made a total of six applications for native title, with some earlier ones combined into later ones and one as of 2021 still active. The first two, made in 2006, were discontinued, while the third in the same year was dismissed.[37] Claims made in 2013,[45][46] and 2016 were combined, resulting in a sixth claim in 2018, which is still active.[37] This claim covers an area from Redcliffe, not far north of Brisbane to around Isis Junction, in the Bundaberg region,[47] but excluding Maryborough.[48]

Some words

Notable people


  1. ^ It should . .be pointed out that Gubbi Gubbi is an alternate spelling for Kabi Kabi. The latter is used here in line with its official usage by the Native Title holders.[1]
  2. ^ John Mathew's description of the Gubbi Gubbi people he knew describes their land as embracing 'the Manumbar Run in the south-west corner of the Burnett District, the country watered by the Amamoor and Koondangoor creeks, tributaries of the Mary River, and the Imbil Station (Mathew 1887, p. 152).
  3. ^ Editor's note: 'Darpil' is registered by Tindale as an alternate name for the Taribelang directly north of the Gubbi Gubbi (Steele 2015, p. 160; Tindale 1974, p. 185).
  4. ^ A force was organized among all these settlers and their employees, and they set out on their mission of revenge guided by the friendly gin already referred to. The fugitive blacks were tracked down the Burnett River, where they had foregathered at a place now called Paddy's Island, not far from the mouth of the river. It was estimated by the white party that there were about a thousand blacks congregated here when the attack was made, and the result was the blacks suffered severely. The avenging whites were determined to end the antagonistic blacks' attitude towards their settlements. It is not known how many blacks were killed in this fight, but they must have numbered hundreds; but it is also known that a large number escaped into the Wongarra scrub on the south side of the river. This attack really broke the power of the blacks in this region. They continued to be hostile often in individual cases, but were never afterwards a serious menace (Laurie 1952, p. 713).


  1. ^ Jarratt 2021.
  2. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 42.
  3. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 67.
  4. ^ E29 Gubbi Gubbi at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ a b "Dr Fesl discontinues native claim". The Courier Mail. 23 February 2005. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  6. ^ a b Prentis 1998, pp. 62–63.
  7. ^ Gubbi Gubbi: Q&A.
  8. ^ KKAC: About Us.
  9. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 172.
  10. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 67–68.
  11. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 68–69.
  12. ^ "Videos preserve Kabi Kabi language". Moreton Daily. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  13. ^ "Kabi Kabi People | Official Guide". Sunshine Coast Tourist Information Centre. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  14. ^ "FAQ". Gubbi Gubbi Dyungungoo. 19 December 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  15. ^ a b Mathew 1910, p. 68.
  16. ^ Greer 2014, p. 134.
  17. ^ Bottos 2013, p. 21.
  18. ^ Bottos 2013, p. 25.
  19. ^ Maynard & Haskins 2016, p. 99.
  20. ^ Reid 2006, p. 16.
  21. ^ Bottos 2013, pp. 25–26.
  22. ^ Laurie 1952, pp. 709–717.
  23. ^ Osbaldiston 2017, p. 109.
  24. ^ Mathews 2007, p. 10.
  25. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 153.
  26. ^ Hill 2016.
  27. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 80.
  28. ^ "Register of Native Title Claims Details". www.nntt.gov.au. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  29. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 124.
  30. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 92–94.
  31. ^ Kind 2016, p. 85.
  32. ^ Steele 2015, p. 218.
  33. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 97–110.
  34. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 21.
  35. ^ a b c Mathew 1910, p. 130.
  36. ^ NNTT: Gubbi Gubbi.
  37. ^ a b c NNTT: Kabi Kabi.
  38. ^ NNTT: Glasshouse Mt 1996b.
  39. ^ (NNTT: Glasshouse Mt 1996b)
  40. ^ a b c NNTT: Gubbi Gubbi #2 1999.
  41. ^ Russo 2001.
  42. ^ Dyungungoo 2013.
  43. ^ NNTT: Gubbi Gubbi #3 2008.
  44. ^ NNTT: discontinued.
  45. ^ NNTT 2013.
  46. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi First Nation 1999.
  47. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi QC2018/007 2019.
  48. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi – map.
  49. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 86.
  50. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 196.
  51. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 156.
  52. ^ Kovacic 2019.
  53. ^ UQP.


  1. ^ a b "Member of the Order of Australia (AM) entry for Ms Evelyn Doreen FESL". It's an Honour, Australian Honours Database. Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 January 1988. In recognition of service to the development of multi-culturalism in Australia and to the preservation of Aboriginal culture and language