The island is known as Bedanug or Bedhan Lag by its SovereignOriginal inhabitants, the Kaurareg people. During his first voyage of discovery James Cook sailed northwards along the east coast of Australia, landing at Botany Bay. Reaching the tip of Queensland, he named and landed on Possession Island, just before sunset on Wednesday 22 August 1770, and declared the coast British territory in the name of King George III.
According to his journal:
'Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast . . . by the name New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast, after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answered by the like number from the Ship.'
In 2001 the Kaurareg successfully claimed native title rights over the island (and other nearby islands).