Cardwell is the home of the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation comprising nine tribal groups that have long lived within a vast region centred on where Cardwell is now located.
Some 650 descendants of these groups work through Girringun to preserve their histories and identity so their enchanting stories connecting the region to ancient lifestyles will endure.
Cardwell township lies within Girramay country.
The Cardwell district falls across country that was occupied by several Aboriginal language groups when the first white landing party came ashore in 1864.
Settlement, as the white colonisers proclaimed it, with notions of permanency, was a foreign concept to the Girramay people and their neighbours. There was nothing here resembling the European ‘built environment’ before 1864, although there was an elaborate ‘infrastructure’ of bush tracks and venerated sites. Girringun elders say that there was a meeting place at Meunga Creek where neighbouring tribes came together with the Girramay people for ceremonies and other important events.
Direct descendants of Aboriginal people who lived in and around this area when the first white settlers arrived, still live within the district today.
The nine Girringun groups identified on the Girringun map below represent a region extending from the islands of Hinchinbrook, Goold, Dunk and the Family Group to the inland towns of El Arish, Herberton, Ravenshoe, Greenvale and Rollingstone.