Epilogue: The Naming of the James Cook University Australian Campuses


Naming of JCU Creeks

For JCU’s 40th anniversary, the seasonal creeks on both campuses were given names in the local languages, in consultation with the traditional owners.

The creek on the Smithfield campus in Cairns was named Atika Creek. Atika is a Yirray word (from the Yirrganydji People), meaning “spear”. The creek flows through the heart of the campus and supports a remnant  riparian rainforest.

The creeks on the Douglas campus in Townsville were named Wadda Mooli Creek and Goondaloo Creek. Wadda Mooli is a salutation in the Birri Gubba language spoken by the Bindal people and means both “hello” and “goodbye”. Goondaloo is “emu country” in the Wulgurukaba language. Both creeks are part of a seasonal fish migration route, and support many native species.


Local Indigenous names given to JCU campuses

In 2020, as part of its 50th birthday celebrations, James Cook University’s Queensland campuses were given local Indigenous names to acknowledge the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the advancement of the university.

“The naming of each campus stands as tribute to JCU’s history and our deep respect to the traditional custodians of our campuses. It reflects our shared history and purpose and gives further effect to the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan and Strategy,” Professor Harding said. The Pro Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Education and Strategy, Professor Martin Nakata, said JCU recognises the important contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to our community.

“In our 50th birthday year, we want to recognise our campuses’ important place in the growth of the university, and have consulted local Indigenous groups to choose appropriate names for the campuses. We are proud of the achievements of JCU’s Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, graduates and staff, and we are proud of the cultural richness and diversity of our university community,” Professor Nakata said. JCU commenced operations in 1960 as the University College of Townsville within the University of Queensland. In 1970, and to coincide with the bicentenary of Captain James Cook landing on the Australian continent, JCU was proclaimed as Queensland’s second university.


Location Campus Name Translation Language
Smithfield, Cairns Nguma-bada campus

(pronounced nom-ah-bud-ah)

Place for tomorrow’s learning, knowledge and wisdom Yirrgay (Yirrganydji) coastal dialect of Djabugay
Cairns City Bada-jali campus

(pronounced bud-ah-jal-lee)

Place and time for new beginnings and growth Yirrgay (Yirrganydji) coastal dialect of Djabugay
Mount Isa Murtupuni campus

(pronounced mer-da-pun-ni)

Come together, gather together




Douglas, Townsville Bebegu Yumba campus

(pronounced be-be-gu yum-ba)

Place of learning Birri Gubba, language of the Bindal peoples


Official Naming of JCU’s Thursday Island Study Centre

To celebrate the university’s deep connection with First Nations people, Indigenous names were gifted to campuses in Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa during the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2020.

In 2021 the Thursday Island Study Centre (AITHM Clinical Research and Training Facility) received its traditional name as an act of reconciliation, respectfully acknowledging the many generations that have gone before and recognising the Traditional Owners of the place that is theirs and that we have the privilege to share.

Location Campus Name Translation Language and Country
Thursday Island Ngulaigau Mudh campus

(pronounced ngoo-lai-gow mud)

House of knowledge Kaurareg Traditional Owners in the dialect of the Kala Lagaw Ya, a traditional language of the Torres Strait

Buildings and Roads on JCU Campuses

In 2021 work commenced on the new accommodation building on the Bebegu Yumba Campus in Douglas, Townsville. It is named Burralga Yumba, Birri Gubba words meaning “brolga place”.

Two thoroughfares on the Bebegu Yumba Campus were given Indigenous names: Mandilgun and Yunbenun.

JCU plans to continue to honour the Indigenous heritage of the lands on which our campuses are based.




Eddie Koiki Mabo: History in the Making Copyright © by James Cook University Library. All Rights Reserved.