The Gubbi Gubbi people are an Aboriginal Australian people native to south-eastern Queensland. They are now classified as one of several Murri language groups in Queensland.


Gubbi Gubbi
Gubbi Gubbi
Regions with significant populations
South East Queensland

The Gubbi Gubbi people, also known as Kabi Kabi, 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.[1][2] However, AIATSIS's Austlang database prefers Gubbi Gubbi.[3]

There is a disagreement both about the name and which group(s) represent the nation or peoples known as Gubbi Gubbi or Kabi Kabi.


John Mathew, who lived among them, described the Gubbi Gubbi lands as roughly coextensive with the Mary River Basin, though stretching beyond it north to the Burrum River and south along the coast itself.[4] 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.[5] 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.[5][a]

The neighbouring tribes were the Turrbal to the south, the Taribelang north, Goreng Goreng to their northwest and the Wakka Wakka westwards.[6]


The Dictionary of the Gubbi-Gubbi and Butchulla languages / compiled by Jeanie Bell, with assistance from Amanda Seed.

The Dictionary has been available since 1994 with both Gubbi-Gubbi and Butchulla vocabularies with English finder-list; sources of words given; notes on phonology, morphology and syntax.

Some say the name was taken from the pale honey gathered from the eucalypts of the hinterland.

History of contact

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

Some Gubbi Gubbi/ Kabi Kabi died in the mass poisoning of upwards of 60 Aboriginal on the Kilcoy run in 1842.[7] A further 50-60 are said to have been killed by food laced with arsenic at Whiteside Station in April 1847.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11][12][13] 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.[b]

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.[14] John Mathew, a clergyman turned anthropologist, also spent five years with them at Manumbar and mastered their language. During his time there he met Kabi bushranger Johnny Campbell, and described their society in a 1910 monograph, Two Representative Tribes of Queensland.[15][16] Mathew also wrote an extensive notebook on the language of the Kabi Kabi people, which is now held in State Library of Queensland.[17] The Kabi Kabi people he grew up with numbered no more than a score by the early 1880s,[18] 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), he stated that only 3-4 full-blooded members of the group remained among the "remnants".[19][20]

Culture and people

Kabi Kabi people of Yabber (Imbil)

Gubbi Gubbi people – their official name - shown in early history books, articles and present day (2021) land claims. Kabi Kabi is also used by many and claims respectfully acknowledge both Gubbi Gubbi and Kabi Kabi.

Social organisation

The Gubbi Gubbi 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)[21]
Butyin-bora unknown Musket Flat[22]
Wityin-bora unknown near Maryborough[22]
Wanggur-bora unknown unknown
Kinayin-bora unknown unknown[22]
Jakalin-bora unknown unknown

Native title claims

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.[23][24]

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.[24] Claims made in 2013,[25][26] and 2016 were combined, resulting in a sixth claim in 2018, which is still active.[24] This claim covers an area from Redcliffe, not far north of Brisbane to around Isis Junction, in the Bundaberg region,[27] but excluding Maryborough.[28]

Some words

  • kavai (small stingless light-grey native bee)[29]
  • killa (small stingless dark native bee)
  • mothar/dhi (white man)[30]
  • mular (ceremonial scars)[31]
  • (n)a'von (mother)
  • pa'bun (father)
  • widha karum (wild dog)
  • wiyidha/widha (tame dog)
  • wunya (greeting)

Notable people


  1. ^ 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).
  2. ^ 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. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 42.
  2. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 67.
  3. ^ E29 Gubbi Gubbi at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 67–68.
  5. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 172.
  6. ^ Mathew 1910, pp. 68–69.
  7. ^ Greer 2014, p. 134.
  8. ^ Bottos 2013, p. 21.
  9. ^ Bottos 2013, p. 25.
  10. ^ Maynard & Haskins 2016, p. 99.
  11. ^ Reid 2006, p. 16.
  12. ^ Bottos 2013, pp. 25–26.
  13. ^ Laurie 1952, pp. 709–717.
  14. ^ Osbaldiston 2017, p. 109.
  15. ^ Mathews 2007, p. 10.
  16. ^ Prentis 1998, pp. 62–63.
  17. ^ "John Mathew papers". State Library of Queensland. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  18. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 153.
  19. ^ Hill 2016.
  20. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 80.
  21. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 21.
  22. ^ a b c Mathew 1910, p. 130.
  23. ^ NNTT: Gubbi Gubbi.
  24. ^ a b c NNTT: Kabi Kabi.
  25. ^ NNTT 2013.
  26. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi First Nation 1999.
  27. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi QC2018/007 2019.
  28. ^ NNTT: Kabi Kabi – map.
  29. ^ Mathew 1910, p. 86.
  30. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 196.
  31. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 156.
  32. ^ Kovacic 2019.
  33. ^ UQP.


  1. ^ "Member of the Order of Australia (AM) entry for Ms Evelyn Doreen FESL". 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


External links

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