The Kabi Kabi people of the Sunshine Coast took their name from the pale honey gathered from the eucalypts of the hinterland. The group was made up of a number of smaller tribes inhabiting the region from Elimbah Creek in the south, to Cooloola National Park in the north.
Aboriginal groups built a number of permanent huts from wattle and tea trees, positioning them about 5 to 6 kilometres apart.
The coastal strip and estuaries provided plentiful food sources including kangaroos, possums, echidnas, lizards, snakes and birds. The ocean provided a bounty of dugong, fish and shellfish. The women of the tribe would gather fern roots, eggs and honey, as well as gathering various leaves and grasses with which to fashion baskets. The first European settlers noticed that the Aborigines in the area tended to display stronger features and physique than those further south, where food was scarcer.
Tribes usually respected one another’s territory but occasionally fights broke out and it was not unusual for the victors to dine on the flesh of their enemies.
In late summer, the tribes would gather on the western side of the ridge near Obi Obi Creek to participate in the Bunya Feast. A celebration of feasting, dance and song would ensue with tribes coming together to talk through their problems and arrange marriages between tribes, to prevent inbreeding. The Bunya Trees were marked by members of the tribes, with ownership being passed down by the father to the eldest son. The bunya nuts, tasting similar to sweet potato, were usually eaten raw or roasted.
Feasting and celebrations would last about a month, with tribes trading for items that were not available in their district. Coastal Aborigines would swap rugs made from possum fur, shields, shells and dilly bags for prized spear heads, sharpened stones for tools, and colourful ochre.
The Glass House Mountains were seen by the Aborigines as a mysterious place of spiritual significance. A Bora Ring just one kilometre south of the mountains served as a place of initiation for young men. The mountains of Tibrogargan, Coonowrin and Beerwah also have much cultural significance.
Many of the names that we use today to describes areas of the Sunshine Coast have roots in Aboriginal culture, for example:
Caloundra – from kalowen-dha or kalowen-ba, meaning ‘a place of beech trees’
Coochimudlo – from coochi or kutchi (meaning red), meaning ‘red rock of the island’
Dunethin – from dhu- yungathim, meaning ‘trees swimming’
Maroochy – from marutji (red beak), the name given to the black swan
Nambour – from namba, meaning ‘the white paper bark of the tea trees’
Noosa – from noothera or nuthuru, meaning ‘shady’