The Ngaro are an Aboriginal tribe that inhabited the Whitsunday islands at least 8000 years prior to the Europeans arriving in 1770. They are considered to be the traditional owners of the islands and surrounding areas and continue to live in the area today. The Ngaro were a very independent island people and were quite different from their mainland cousins. They were essentially nomadic, travelling throughout the Whitsundays and the mainland coastal fringe, where they would hunt, fish and forage. The Ngaro people built canoes from tree bark, vine fronds and saplings, making them strong enough to navigate the Whitsunday island chain in relative safety. While much evidence of their lifestyle has been lost to the ever changing landscape, beautiful cave paintings, fish traps, stone quarries and everyday artifacts attesting to their eight millennia of ownership have been found throughout the islands. An important site at Nara Inlet has an interactive story board that explains the tribe's history, which can be visited during some tours in the Whitsundays. Here, just a short walk from the beach landing, you will find a cave with paintings and large middens, which are mounds formed from years of discarded bones, shells and food remnants. Archaeologists have tested the mounds and left-behinds of these original inhabitants, which have made it easy to date the years of the tribes who once were the primary inhabitants of the area.
The Whitsunday Island Ngaro people possessed their own language, culture and art that is distinct from those of the mainland aboriginal groups. This is not to say that they did not encounter the mainland tribes, as it is known that they maintained contact with them throughout their occupation.
The first recorded contact with Europeans occurred in 1770, when Captain Cook sighted two Ngaro aboriginals as he sailed his British Ship the "Endeavour" down through the Whitsunday Passage, which is now part of the greater island group, of the Cumberland Islands. While it would be a number of years before there would be any physical contact, of which at first was friendly enough and involved trade and regular interaction. However, by the time the British began to settle in the area, the relationship devolved as the Ngaro presented stiff opposition to colonization, which the British aimed to do. They began to forcibly removed the Ngaro from their territories and began employing them in their own endeavours, such as sawmills. Eventually more Europeans moved in and more Ngaro were moved out, disrupting their traditional way of life.
Today the Ngaro people are still deeply connected to the Whitsundays, where descendents continue to pass on their oral traditions and keep Ngaro culture alive.