South East Queensland Placenames
This Information Guide has been developed to support individuals and communities in their research into placenames of south east Queensland, particularly those from an Aboriginal language background.
Aboriginal placenames generate a lot of discussion and queries regarding meanings, translations, etc. – the landscape of south east Queensland had traditional names prior to the settlement of Moreton Bay. Some have been maintained in placenames or landmarks, others have been lost and replaced by introduced names; there also seems to be a growing trend of dual-naming to revive traditional names.
The following list is a selection of traditional placenames and meanings originating from the main Aboriginal groups of the south east Queensland Region – Butchulla, Jandai, Ngugi, Nunukul, Turubul, Wakka Wakka, Yugambeh, Yugara and Yugarabul peoples. Some names may be derived from clans or dialect groups within these main language nations, e.g. Goenpul, Mununjali, Undanbi, etc.
- Banyo (Turubul) – means ‘ridge’.
- Barambah (Wakka Wakka) – from ‘Buranba’ which means ‘Westerly wind’.
- Beerburrum (Kabi Kabi / Undanbi) – from ‘Bir-barram’ which means ‘sound of wings of the King Parrot’.
- Beerwah (Kabi Kabi / Turubul) – means ‘up in the sky’ [from birra = sky; wa(ndum) = go up/rising up].
- Benarkin (Wakka Wakka) - means Blackbutt tree (Eucalyptus pilularis)
- Boonah (Yugarabul) – from ‘Buna’ which means ‘a bloodwood tree’.
- Bribie Island – traditionally known by the Kabi Kabi people (Jindoobarrie Clan) as ‘Yarun’, which means ‘hunting ground’.
- Brisbane – named by Oxley after Governor Brisbane, however the traditional name for the area was ‘Mianjin / Meean-jin’ (Yugara / Turubul) which refers to the spike of land which formed Petrie’s Bight.
- Buaraba (Yugara) – name taken from an early pastoral run which means ‘place of dry bushes’.
- Bulimba (Yugara) – several meanings, however believed to mean place of magpie larks/Peewees [from ‘bulum’ = magpie lark; ba = place of].
- Bundamba (Yugara) – from ‘Bundanda’ which means ‘axe place’ [bundan = axe; da = place of].
- Caboolture (Yugara / Turubul / Kabi Kabi) – from ‘kabul’ which means carpet snake in several South-East Queensland languages; i.e. ‘place of the carpet snake’.
- Canungra (Yugambeh) – from ‘gungungai’ which means ‘a long flat or clearing’.
- Coochiemudlo (Nunukul) – from ‘Coodgee Mudlo / Kutchi mudlo” means ‘red rock’.
- Coochin (Kabi Kabi / Turubul) – means ‘red soil’ (locality on Sunshine Coast).
- Coochin Coochin (Yugarabul) – means ‘red clay/earth’ (property near Boonah).
- Coolabunia (Wakka Wakka) – means ‘sleeping koala’ [from ‘Koala’ and buani = sleeping].
- Coolangatta - named after the Schooner wrecked there in 1846; name originates from Shoalhaven River (Dharawal) and refers to a mountain near the Shoalhaven River.
- Cooloola (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘kululu’ which means ‘Cypress Pines’.
- Coolum (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘gulum’ meaning ‘without or wanting’ [refers to blunt nature/shape of mountain]; there is a Dreaming/Creation story associated with this placename.
- Coomera (Yugambeh) – refers to a species of wattle tree; the bark was used to stun fish.
- Coonowrin (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘coonoong-warrang’ which means ‘crooked neck’.
- Coorparoo (Yugara) – from ’koolpurrum’ which refers to mosquitoes – this was also the name given to Norman Creek; however a second possible meaning is ‘gentle dove’ [refers to the sound made by the dove].
- Cooroy (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘kurui’ which means ‘grey forest possum’.
- Deebing Creek (Yugara / Yugarabul) – from ‘dibing’ which means ‘mosquito / midge fly’.
- Doboy (Yugara) – from ‘dubee’ which means ‘mud crab’.
- Doomben (Yugara) – from ‘dumben’ which means ‘a tree fern’.
- Dugandan (Yugarabul) – from ‘dugai / tugai’ which means ‘place on rising ground or mountain spur’.
- Dundathu (Butchulla) – from ‘dhan-dauwa-dhu’ which means ‘place of dead trees’ [refers to a site on the Mary River where Pettigrew & Sims established a sawmill in the 1850s].
- Elimbah (Kabi Kabi / Undanbi) – means ‘place of grey snakes’ [yilam = grey snake; ba = place of].
- Enoggera (Turubul) – from ‘Euogerra’ a contraction of ‘youara-ngarea’ which means ‘song and dance’ [refers to a ceremonial site at Enoggera used for dances].
- Fisherman Island – traditionally known by the Jandai / Jandawal people as ‘andaccah’, which means ‘mullet’.
- Fraser Island – traditionally known by the Butchulla people as k’gari.
- Gatton – named after the town in Surrey (UK), but traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Boona’ (means a bloodwood tree).
- Gayndah (Wakka Wakka) – from ‘kunda’ which means ‘a mountain range’.
- Gin Gin (Wakka Wakka) – from ‘Kwin Kwin’ which means ‘red soil / red soil country’.
- Goomeri (Wakka Wakka) – from ‘gumerri’ which means ‘wooden shield’.
- Goodna (Yugara) – means ‘dung’.
- Gowrie (Wakka Wakka) – from ‘kowari’ which means ‘place of scrub’ [from ‘kowa’ = scrub].
- Grandchester – originally named “Bigge’s Camp”, it became Grandchester in 1865; however it was traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Goojabila’ which means ‘honey’.
- Grantham – named after an early pastoral run, but traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Goanumby’ which means ‘green bark’ – so called because the inner bark of ironbark trees was collected from this area for humpies.
- Gympie (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘Gimpi’ which means ‘stinging tree’.
- Helidon – named after an early pastoral run, but traditionally known to the Yugara people as ‘Yabarba’ (means ‘kurrajong’).
- Helidon Spa – traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Woonarrajimmi’ (means ‘where the clouds fell down’ – there is a local Aboriginal Dreaming/Creation story that describes how the springs were formed).
- Inala (Yugambeh) - derived from the Yugambeh word meaning 'resting time' or 'night time'.
- Indooroopilly (Yugara) – means ‘gully of leeches’ [from ‘nyindur’ meaning leeches; pilli = gully].
- Ipswich – named after Ipswich in the UK, however the traditional Yugara name for the area was ‘Doolmoor’; while the Yugarabul people called it ‘Dulmah’.
- Jeebropilly (Yugara / Yugarabul) – means ‘gully of sugar glider’ [from ‘jeebro’ meaning sugar glider; pilli = gully].
- Jumpinpin (Yugambeh) – means ‘pandanus root’; according to Steele (1984) the roots were beaten until fibrous and then used as chewing ropes for eating honey.
- Kalbar (Yugarabul) – from ‘galbar’ which means ‘dead/whitened trees’.
- Kurilpa (Yugara / Turubul) – means ‘place of water rat’ [kuril = water rat; pa = place of].
- Laidley – named by Cunningham after James Laidley (Deputy Commissary, Sydney), but traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Milgero’ (meaning not recorded/unknown).
- Laidley Creek – as previous, but traditionally known by the Yugara people as ‘Goonanjee-gerrara’ (means ‘going down creek’); this refers to the Gatton and Helidon groups crossing the creek as they are ‘going down’ towards Moreton Bay.
- Lake Clarendon – named after early run, traditional name for the area is unknown.
- Ma Ma Creek – claimed to be a corruption of ‘Mia Mia’ (bark huts) but this word originates from Western Australia; it may have been a borrowed name used by early settlers. The traditional name for the area is unknown.
- Maroochydore (Kabi Kabi) – means ‘place of the black swan’ [from ‘murukutchi’ = black swan/red-bill; dha = place of]; there is a Dreaming story associated with this placename.
- Maroon (Yugarabul) – from ‘murrun’ which means ‘sand goanna’; there is a Dreaming story associated with the name/area.
- Milbong (Yugarabul) – named after ‘One Eye Waterhole’ – Milbong means ‘one eye dead or gone’.
- Moggill (Yugara / Turubul) – from ‘mugil / magil’ which means ‘water lizard’.
- Moogerah (Yugarabul) – means ‘thunder’; this refers to the storms which develop along the ranges surrounding Cunningham’s Gap.
- Mooloolaba (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘Muluaba’ which means ‘place of black snakes’ [mulu = black snake; ba = place of].
- Moreton Bay – traditionally known by the Ngugi people and neighbouring groups as ‘Quandamooka’; this term is also used to refer to people of Moreton Bay.
- Moreton Island – traditionally known by the Ngugi people as ‘Moorgumpin’, which means ‘place of sand hills’.
- Mount Cordeaux (Cunningham’s Gap) – traditionally known by the Yugarabul people as ‘Niamboyoo’.
- Mount Mitchell (Cunningham’s Gap) – traditionally known by the Yugarabul people as 'Coonyin-nirra'.
- Mundoolun (Yugambeh) – from ‘Mundheralgun’ which means ‘death adder’.
- Murrarie (Yugara) – from ‘mudherri’ which means ‘sticky / messy earth’.
- Murphy’s Creek – named after Peter Murphy (servant/travelling companion of Patrick Leslie), but traditionally known to the Yugara people as ‘Tamamareen’ (means ‘where the fishing nets were burnt in a grass fire’).
- Mutdapilly (Yugara / Yugarabul) – means ‘sticky gully’, referring to the black soil in the area – area was also known as Ten Mile Swamp [‘mutda’ meaning sticky/muddy ground; pilli = gully].
- Nambour (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘Nambur’ which means ‘red-flowered tea tree’.
- Ninderry (Kabi Kabi) – means ‘place of leeches’ [from ‘nyindur’ meaning ‘leeches’].
- Nindooinba (Yugambeh) – from ‘Ninduinba’ which means ‘place of remains of a fire’.
- North Stradbroke Island – traditionally known by the Nunukul / Jandawal groups as ‘Minjerribah’, which means ‘Island in the sun’.
- Pimpama (Yugambeh) – from ‘pimpimba’ which means ‘place of soldier birds (noisy miners)’ [pimpim = soldier bird; ba = place of].
- Pinkenba (Turubul) – from ‘Binkinba’ which means ‘place of land tortoise’ [from Binkin = tortoise; ba = place of].
- Purga (Yugara / Yugarabul) – from ‘pur-pur’ which means ‘meeting place’.
- South Stradbroke Island – traditionally known by the Nunukul / Jandai groups as ‘Currigee’ which is derived from ‘curragee’ meaning currajong trees; a second reference suggests the mouth a river, possibly referring to the place where the Coomera River entered the Bay.
- Tabralga (Yugambeh) – from ‘Dhaberigaba’ which means ‘place of clubs/nullas’.
- Tallebudgera (Yugambeh) – means ‘rotten or decayed logs’; [from ‘Talle’ = trees/logs; ‘Budhera’ = rotten or decayed] – refers to the practice of the local people placing timber (preferably oaks) in the water to attract teredo (type of mollusc) which was a source of food.
- Tallegalla – despite sounding Aboriginal, the word is drawn from Latin and refers to several species of ‘scrub turkey’ which are prolific in the area; the locality is also known as Two Tree Hill.
- Tamrookum (Yugambeh) - believed to be an Anglicisation of 'dhan-buragun' which means place of boomerangs.
- Tarampa (Yugara) – name taken from early pastoral run which means ‘place of the wild lime’ [turum = wild lime; pa = place of].
- Tarragindi - despite sounding Aboriginal this suburb is named after Tarragindi Tasserone, a South Sea Islander from the Loyalty Islands.
- Tewantin (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘dauwadhan’ meaning ‘dead tree or logs’ [refers to when the area was first used for sawmilling].
- Tibrogargan (Kabi Kabi / Undanbi) – refers to the mountain and the Dreaming Story associated with the Glasshouse Mountains; derives from ‘jeebora which means sugar glider and ‘gaggalin’ which means ‘biting’; name is also used for several features in the area, e.g. Tibrogargan Creek.
- Tingalpa (Yugara) – means ‘place of stunning fish plant’ [from tangul = plant used for stunning fish and pa = place of].
- Toowong (Yugara) – from ‘tuwung’ which means ‘koel / cuckoo’.
- Undulla (Yugarabul) – corruption of the word ‘nandulla’ which means silver leafed wattle.
- Urangan (Butchulla) – from ‘yuangan’ which means dugong; a second reference suggests it may be derived from ‘yerengen’ which refers to a small shellfish.
- Wamuran (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘Wamuran’ who was a local leader/warrior; Menvil Wamuran also known as King Jacky Delaney [King of Stoney Creek].
- Warill (Yugara / Yugarabul) – means ‘creek’ or ‘river’; used in several placenames, e.g. Warrill View, Warrill Creek.
- Willawong – language origin is unknown, possibly an introduced word from Southern States; it means the junction of two creeks which may be a reference to Oxley and Blunder Creeks.
- Wongawallan (Yugambeh) – refers to ‘wonga’ meaning ‘pigeon’ and ‘wallan’ meaning ‘water’; a second reference suggests it is derived from ‘wangum-wulam’ which means a cut/scarred cheek.
- Woombye (Kabi Kabi) – from ‘wambai’ which means ‘black myrtle tree’; the timber was used for axe handles.
- Woogaroo (Yugara) – means a ‘whirlpool’; a second reference suggests it means ‘cool or shady’.
- Woolloongabba (Yugara) – from ‘woolloon-capemm’ which means ‘whirling water’ – refers to series of waterholes originally located there; a second reference refers to a ‘fighting place’.
- Wulkuraka (Yugara / Yugarabul) – from ‘woolcooracca’ which means ‘flowering gum tree’; a second reference refers to ‘plenty of kookaburras’.
- Wynnum (Yugara) – from ‘winnam’ which means ‘breadfruit or Pandanus tree’.
- Yandina (Kabi Kabi) - derived from 'yan dhinang' referring to cross by foot, i.e. the ford on the Maroochy River.
- Yarraman - means 'horse' in several Aboriginal languages; originally derived from Sydney region.
- Yeronga (Yugara) – from ‘yarungnga / yarung’ which means ‘gravelly place’; a second reference refers to ‘yurong’ which means rain.
- Yeerongpilly (Yugara) – means ‘sandy or gravelly gully’ [from ‘yarungnga / yarung’= sand/gravel and ‘pilli’ = gully].
Note: This list is merely a selection of placenames from south east Queensland and provides an insight into the traditional names for country used by Aboriginal groups. Many words were ‘shared’ across neighbouring groups and may have a shared meaning in several languages. Further information on Aboriginal placenames can be obtained from a range of sources including: Traditional Owner Groups, Indigenous Language Centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations, Historical Centres and Museums, Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines as well as community members.
Sources in SLQ Collections
This is only a selection from the SLQ Collections – for a comprehensive listing of print and electronic materials relating to Indigenous languages, use the OneSearch facility: onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au
Brisbane History Group (1990) Brisbane: local, oral and placename history. Brisbane History Group: Brisbane.
G 994.31 1990
Helon, G. (1994) The Goreng Goreng tribe of South-East Queensland: its traditional tribal territory, clan divisions and proper names. (Map) Gurang Land Council: Bundaberg. MAPS 840 1998 02000 F
Hercus, L.; Hodges, F and Simpson, J. (2002) The land is a map: placenames of Indigenous origin in Australia.
Q 919.4003 LAN
Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra.
J 499.15 HOL
Kerwin, D. (2011) “Language and Landscape: European words in Aboriginal spaces”. Out of the Port session. Available online as a webcast via SLQ Website: http://enc.slq.qld.gov.au/audio/slq/pp/mp3/OP/LanguageLandscape.mp3
Lamington Natural History Society (199?) Place names in Lamington National Park. VF 910.3 pla
Milne, R. (1993) Dahs and bahs: Aboriginal Placenames of Southern Queensland. Q 910.014 MIL
Nelson, C. J. (1993) The Valley of the Jagera. P 994.32 nel
Queensland Place Names Board (1963) Interim Gazetteer of Queensland Place Names. REF 919.43 1963
Simpson, J. (1975) Placenames of Southern Queensland. P 910.014 sim
Steele, J. G. (1984) Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River. Q 994.3102 ste
Watson, F. J. (1944) Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes of South Eastern Queensland. REFJ 499.15 wat
- Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) - Queensland place names online search: https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/qld/environment/land/place-names/search
For further information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages at SLQ, please contact:
Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place, South Brisbane Qld, 4101.
PO Box 3488, South Brisbane Qld, 4101.
t: (07) 3840 7666 f: (07) 3842 9126
SLQ Indigenous Languages Blog: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ilq/
The Indigenous Languages Strategy and associated activities at SLQ are supported through funding from the Indigenous Languages Support Program (ILS) from the Australian Government Department of Communication and the Arts, Ministry for the Arts.
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