The name Woolgoolga comes from ‘wiigulga’, the Gumbaynggirr word for the black apple tree (Planchonella australis).
The black apple is a member of the tropical fruit family, Sapotaceae. Its large black-skinned fruit contains a white stringy flesh, which although bland to the human palate, is readily sought after by fruit-eating animals. Aborigines ate the fallen fruit while settlers gathered the fruit for preserves.
Permanent European settlement occurred in the 1870s. The name “Woogoolga” was gazetted in 1888, and changed to the current name of Woolgoolga in 1966, or “Woopi” as it is affectionately referred to by locals.
Woopi was an early centre of Sikh migration to Australia. Sikhs had migrated to New South Wales and Queensland and many of them then led a marginalised life on the north coast of New South Wales and in southeastern Queensland due to the imposition of the White Australia Policy in 1901.
Due to war time labour shortages and, consequently, a relaxation of the previous prohibition of non-European labour in the banana industry some Sikhs began to settle in Woolgoolga during World War II. After the war they were able to acquire leasehold and freehold banana plantations. Woopi now has the largest regional Sikh/Punjabi population in Australia, and they are said to own 90% of the local banana farms.
Woolgoolga has a Heritage Walk aimed at enriching the understanding of Woopi’s history and culture.
A shipwreck, The Buster, can be seen at most times of the year on Woolgoolga Beach. Click here for more information.