Growing up in the coastal city of Hervey Bay in Queensland’s south, Tori-Jay Mordey would often look out to nearby Fraser Island, as it’s now called, unaware of the lie at its heart.
Now aged 22, the Thursday Island-born illustrator says she’s now pleased to help set the record straight on “one of the biggest lies in Australia’s history”.
In the 1830s, Scottish woman Eliza Fraser, a sea captain’s wife, was saved and helped by the Butchulla people on the island of K’Gari, but on returning to London told one of the biggest whoppers of European occupation.
Mrs Fraser falsely claimed she had been captured by the Butchulla people, a lie that won her fame and money and inspired literature and artwork.
K’Gari was even renamed Fraser Island.
More than 180 years later, a 10-minute online interactive animation, K’Gari, which Ms Mordey illustrated for SBS and NITV, is helping to set the record straight.
The documentary, which features the voices of Miranda Otto and Fiona Foley, is up for a series of prizes, including the United Nations Association of Australia Award for an online documentary.
Award winners will be announced on UN Day on October 27.
K’Gari will also be shown in Amsterdam at the International Documentary Film Festival next month.
Ms Mordey said she is already receiving messages of interest from Europe.
“Even the other day I had someone contact me through social media all the way from the Netherlands who saw the website and read about the articles and stuff and was so proud of it as well,” she said.
Ms Mordey, an illustrator for Magabala Books, said she was offered the K’Gari project this year not long after graduating from Griffith University with a degree in contemporary Australian Indigenous art.
She said Fraser Island should return to its original name of K’Gari, which means paradise.
“I felt very sad when I was learning about the original story,” she said. “I’d been living in Hervey Bay, right across from Fraser Island, for the majority of my childhood. I had no idea that was the kind of history that happened on Fraser Island.
“This is something people need to know. As a kid they never really told you stuff like that about the island. We used to go on school excursions to Fraser Island but I don’t remember ever hearing about the Indigenous stories from the island.”