19 February 2021

Gentleman keeps promise to rename William Slim Drive to prevent further hurt

| Ian Bushnell
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William Slim Drive

Duplication works are set to begin on what will now be Gundaroo Drive. Photo: File.

William Slim Drive in Belconnen has been renamed, as promised in 2019 by the ACT Government, in response to claims that the former governor-general, in whose honour the road was named, sexually abused boys at the Fairbridge Farm School in NSW in the 1950s.

The abuse claims came to light when victims gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, although the Slim family has denied the allegations, which were never proven.

Sir William Slim was a former British military commander and the 13th governor-general of Australia. The abuse was alleged to have occurred when he visited Fairbridge, which was a notorious home for British child migrants who were trained as farmers and servants.

A media report pre-empted a planned announcement of the name change to Gundaroo Drive, as a continuation of that road to Ginninderra Drive and coinciding with the start of duplication works.

Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman said the renaming followed careful consideration of representations from the community alongside findings from the Royal Commission’s final report, which found institutions should review their existing institutional honours, dedications and memorials.

”The ACT Government is making sure that the commemoration of people through place names is consistent with an inclusive and progressive Canberra,” he said.

The 2019 decision also followed an ACT Legislative Assembly review into place names in the ACT.

Mr Gentleman said at the time that the government needed to ensure ”our public place naming does not cause ongoing hurt to Canberrans”.

Dr Cathy Kezelman, CEO of the Blue Knot Foundation – Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, said then that the minimal act of changing the name had a significant effect on survivors.

“Each time a survivor confronts a reminder of their trauma, it can throw them back and be a trigger. Seeing William Slim Drive would be a fairly significant trigger for many people,” she said.

Roads Minister Chris Steel said Roads ACT would commence an audit to identify all the road signs that reference William Slim Drive.

“Once the legislative process has taken effect and the change of name is formalised, a procurement process will commence to update all the required road signage,” he said.

The 3.2 km dual carriageway project between Ginninderra Drive and the Barton Highway will also include intersection upgrades at Dumas Street, Owen Dixon Drive and Chuculba Crescent, and on-road cycle lanes in both directions.

It has been split into two stages – the Barton Highway to Chuculba Crescent and Baldwin Drive to Ginninderra Drive, and Chuculba Crescent to Baldwin Drive, for which a tender has recently closed, with work due to get under way by the middle of the year.

The upgrade will provide access to new housing, reduce traffic congestion and improve safety.

ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said the ACT Government was investing significantly into road network upgrades to keep Canberrans moving and to support better public transport and active travel, and providing employment opportunities in the process.

“As Gungahlin continues to grow, and with the future release of several new suburbs on the former CSIRO site, we are acting to augment this important arterial road to Belconnen,” he said.

“With more than 20,000 vehicles on the road connecting Belconnen and Gungahlin daily, this duplication will ensure that we have greater road capacity to keep the northern part of our city moving.”

The Federal Government has contributed $20 million to the $44.5 million project, which is due to be completed by mid-2023.

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Capital Retro5:17 pm 18 Feb 21

Perhaps the government should give Israel Folau a stint as “Commissioner for Name Changes”.

He could include aduterers, alcholics etc. The new sign makers would be busy.

Good riddance. Am sure there is plenty more honored individuals who have left scarrs. Their glorification also needs to be stopped.

Seems like it would have been super easy to just say ‘we’re renaming this portion of the road Gundaroo Drive as it’s contiguous with the existing Northern end and this is removing confusion’. Or something like that.

rationalobserver7:26 am 18 Feb 21

Cancel culture arrives in Canberra.
Will we also tear down Government House and Duntroon because of their colonial era interactions with local tribes?
Will every street named after politicians now be renamed based on the public perception of their characters?

Stephen Saunders3:56 am 18 Feb 21

Good riddance, I’d say. One is reminded of Hollingworth. Not to mention Hurley, defending high honours to Arndt and Court.

It is an awkward road to drive on because of the name and bad publicity.

I think Gundaroo Drive is a good name for the road. The only issue that comes to mind is that the road to Gundaroo is not aligned with the historical or planned road or track towards Gundaroo because of the Gungahlin suburb developments. Therefore, the signage at Gundaroo Drive and Horse Park Drive in Gungahlin should be updated to list the direction to Gundaroo too, if it has not already been done. This would be helpful for motorists and emergency vehicles that need to travel towards Gundaroo.

Capital Retro4:12 pm 17 Feb 21

Has a probity check been done on the new name “Gundaroo”?

So is this “preventing hurt” standard now going to apply to any place or street name?

And how objective and serious does the potential hurt need to be?

Was William Slim convicted for any of this?

No.

Neither was Jimmy Saville.

Bit of a difference with Savile, considering there was a major investigation into it.
There has been no investigation into these claims, and the ACT Government are now defaming somebody and doing damage to the reputation of his family based on unproven allegations.

If I accuse you of sexual assault, should that be enough to have you branded a rapist?

Joshua Crouthamel4:34 pm 17 Feb 21

The loss of an honorific is not defamation. And, @keek, if you’d been sexually assaulted wouldn’t you wish we lived in a world where alleged victims were believed, as false claims of rape represent only 2% of the very small percent or rapes reported? It isn’t like this name change is costing Slim’s family their livelihood.

The loss of an honorific under these circumstances is calling the guy guilty without trial.

And no, I wish we lived in a society where reports were taken seriously, and investigated thoroughly, but an accusation didn’t mean automatic guilt and being branded as a rapist in a trial by media.

Actual sex offenders are abhorrent, and deserve much more severe punishment than they get, but that should only happen after conclusive proof of the offence.

Joshua,
I’d prefer to live in a world where actual evidence was more important than an individual’s subjective feelings.

Also, there’s no actual solid data on the amount of sexual assault claims that are false because it’s almost impossible to know.

The 2% figure has come from studies where it was definitively proven that the claim was false or the crime could not have happened.

On the flip side of that, very few claims of sexual assault actually reach a court room and it’s difficult to get a conviction. The conviction rates are around 5% of reported assaults but a massive amount of alleged sexual assaults go unreported as well.

So it would seem illogical to claim that only 2% of alleged sexual assaults are false because they were proven false when on the flip side, only 5% of reported sexual assaults were actually proven to have occurred to the standard required for a conviction.

The actual numbers would be somewhere in between and it’s quite a massive gap.

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