Dunk Island contains some locally significant rock art and middens, demonstrating the island was important to two local Aboriginal tribes.
Coonanglebah was traditionally shared between the Bandjin and Djiru people who have lived in this area for tens of thousands of years. What today is reef was once a coastal plain known to the Aboriginal inhabitants as “eastern grey (kangaroo) country”. 8,000 years ago the sea levels rose creating the Family Islands. Aboriginal people paddled to the islands to collect, hunt and gather the rich resources. Knowledge of the region is passed on through traditional stories.
Today, paintings in rock shelters show images of turtles, birds, echidnas and fish; these paintings, along with shell middens, provide tangible evidence of the Aboriginal peoples’ long association with the islands. Despite the many changes since European settlement, the Djiru and Bandjin people still retain a strong connection to the Family Islands and take part in its management. An important creation story for the island is that of Girroo Gurrll, an Aboriginal ancestral spirit, part man but mostly eel, who named islands and local waters in his travels.