Gubbi Gubbi people

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

The Gubbi Gubbi people, also written Kabi Kabi incorrectly by the German people, are an Indigenous Australian people native to southeastern Queensland. They are now classified as one of several Murri language groups in Queensland.


The Gubbi Gubbi people have their own language that was once spoken fluently. 'Gubbi' is the word meaning 'no' in the Gubbi Gubbi language.

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. Davis lived among the Ginginbara clan and called it Dippil.[1]


"The traditional lands of the Gubbi Gubbi people once stretched from the northern banks of the Pine River, Redcliffe, to the Gregory River north of Maryborough. The Gubbi Gubbi land also runs along the Conondale Ranges through Caboolture, Kallangur and back to the Pine River including Redcliffe and Bribie Island." [2]

Norman Tindale situated the Gubbi Gubbi people as an inland tribe of the Wide Bay–Burnett area, whose 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.[3] Gubbi Gubbi country is currently located between Pumicestone Road, near Caboolture in the south, through to Childers in the north. Their habitat was originally rain forest, with cleared areas created by regular firing of the scrub.[3]

John Mathew's description of the Kabi group 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.[4]

Social organisation[edit]

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[5]

History of contact[edit]

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

Some Gubbi Gubbi died in the mass poisoning of upwards of 60 Aborigines on the Kilcoy run in 1842.[6] A further 50-60 are said to have been killed by food laced with arsenic at Whiteside Station in April 1847.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10][11][12] 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.[a]

The escaped convict James Davis, in addition to dwelling with several other tribes, is said to have lived for a time with the Gubbi Gubbi.[14] John Mathew, a clergyman turned anthropologist, also spent 5 years with them at Manumbar and mastered their language. He described their society in a 1910 monograph, Two Representative Tribes of Queensland.[15][16] The Gubbi Gubbi people he grew up with numbered no more than a score by the early 1880s.[17]

Many towns across South East Queensland have names derived from the Gubbi Gubbi words. Coolum is derived from gulum or kulum meaning "blunt". Gympie is derived from gimpi-gimpi, the word for "stinging tree". Nambour is derived from naamba, referring to the red-flowering bottle brush Callistemon viminalis. Mooloolaba is derived from either mulu meaning "snapper fish", or mulla meaning "red-bellied black snake".[citation needed]

Culture and people[edit]

Natives of Yabber, Gubbi Gubbi People

The Gubbi Gubbi people 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.[18]

The Queensland lungfish was native to Gubbi Gubbi waters and the species fell under a taboo among them, forbidding its consumption. It was known in their language as "dala".[19]

Notable Gubbi Gubbi people[edit]

Native title[edit]

The descendants of the Gubbi Gubbi made a application for native title on 31 May 2013.[20]

Incorrect names[edit]

  • The Gubbi Gubbi people had an oral language.
  • The Gubbi Gubbi people intend to have their language spoken correctly as it was once spoken for educational purposes.
  • The German people recorded their language with incorrect pronunciation, hence the confusion of the pronunciation and spelling.
    The following names are the incorrect pronunciation and spelling of the Gubbi Gubbi People:
  • Kabi Kabi
  • Kubi Kubi
  • Cabbee
  • Karbi
  • Karabi
  • Carbycarbery
  • Kabbi, Kahby, Carby
  • Gabigabi
  • Dippil (generic descriptor also for adjacent several tribes speaking similar languages)
  • Dipple
  • Maiba (river chestnut people)
  • Dundu:ra
  • Doondoora, Dundubara, Doondooburra. (Hervey Bay people)
  • Dowarburra. (horde north of Kilkivan).[3]

Some words[edit]

  • wiyidha/widha (tame dog)
  • widha karum (wild dog)
  • pa'bun (father)
  • (n)a'von (mother)
  • mothar/dhi (whiteman)[21]
  • mular (ceremonial scars)[22]


  1. ^ 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.[13]


  1. ^ Steele 1984, p. 160.
  2. ^ "Gubbi Gubbi Dyungungoo". Gubbi Gubbi Dyungungoo. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 172.
  4. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 152.
  5. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 21.
  6. ^ Greer 2014, p. 134.
  7. ^ Bottoms 2013, p. 21.
  8. ^ Bottoms 2013, p. 25.
  9. ^ Maynard & Haskins 2016, p. 99.
  10. ^ Reid 2006, p. 16.
  11. ^ Bottoms 2013, pp. 25–26.
  12. ^ Laurie 1952, pp. 709–717.
  13. ^ Laurie 1952, p. 713.
  14. ^ Osbaldiston 2017, p. 109.
  15. ^ Mathews 2007, p. 10.
  16. ^ Prentis 1998, pp. 62–63.
  17. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 153.
  18. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 124.
  19. ^ Kind 2016, p. 85.
  20. ^ NNTT 2013.
  21. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 196.
  22. ^ Mathew 1887, p. 156.


External links[edit]