Move to review ‘hurtful’ Canberra place names raises concerns over time and resources

Glynis Quinlan 29 October 2018 76
Directional Sign with CHANGES and Sky

What’s in a name? There is a move to have Canberra’s suburb and street names reviewed in case they are commemorating “villains as heroes”.

A move to have Canberra’s suburb and street names reviewed in case they are commemorating “villains as heroes” has raised concerns about the time and resources needed and the logistical difficulties associated with place name changes.

ACT Labor MLA Bec Cody is calling for the ACT Place Names Committee to review the territory’s place names with the aim of changing them if they are causing “ongoing hurt” in the community.

Ms Cody maintains that the behaviour of some of the people who have streets or suburbs named after them is “criminal, reprehensible, and/or abhorrent”.

However, the co-chair of the ACT Place Names Committee, Jeffrey Brown, said that place names are chosen after a rigorous process and are meant to be “enduring”.

“There are 6,000 or 7,000 names if you include all the place names on record in the ACT. How much time would that take?” queried Mr Brown.

“The usual thing is that place names are enduring and would only be changed in exceptional circumstances.

“If other information comes up it may be an opportunity to add that information – good or bad – on the website.”

“We can put on the record that there are differing views about that person’s legacy and use it as an educational opportunity.”

On Tuesday (30 October) Ms Cody will move in the Legislative Assembly that all existing place names be reviewed to “ensure they meet with community standards” and hopes the motion will be debated before Christmas.

She told Region Media that since her call has become public this morning, her office has been inundated with requests from people for place names to be changed.

Place names of concern that people have raised include Jardine Street in Kingston and Haig Park.

Ms Cody said she is not advocating any particular name changes as she believes there are several different historical figures inappropriately commemorated in ACT place names and she does not want to imply that one cause is more important than another.

File photo of Labor MLA Bec Cody.

Ms Cody said that during her 30 plus years as a hairdresser, people often raised with her the hurt they felt over particular place names.

“The hurt they feel about place names is not to be shied away from,” Ms Cody said.

“It’s time we take a good look at those people because they may not be the heroes they were originally thought to be.”

Concerns over the choice of a historical name most recently came to the fore in Canberra when ‘Bean’ was chosen by the Australian Electoral Commission as the name of the ACT’s new electorate in recognition of war correspondent Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean.

At the time, the nomination of Bean drew criticism and objections from those who questioned his anti-Semitic attitude towards World War 1 general Sir John Monash or preferred a more ‘diverse’ choice.

Concerns have also been raised about ‘William Slim Drive’, which was named after Australia’s 13th Governor-General who has been accused of committing sexual abuse against children.

Mr Brown said there have only been a couple of name changes in the ACT’s history that he is aware of and both were changes to road names.

He said that both cases were because there were “certain connotations to the name that were offensive to the people living there” but weren’t associated with a change in a person’s “legacy”.

Even just changing a road name involved a lengthy process in which every person in the street had to be consulted and changes had to be made to databases, street directories, GNAV files and the like.

Mr Brown said that this was a big process just for a road name change but would be huge for changing a suburb’s name.

“You’ve got to get everyone in that suburb consulted and I certainly know I haven’t got the resources to do that,” he said.

“As a policy as soon as you change a name it can take a generation for people to recognise the name change.”

Mr Brown gave the example of a name change which occurred for a South Australian bridge.

“Sixty years later they had to change it back because people weren’t using it.”

Mr Brown explained that it can take months to select a place name and there is a lot of research involved, with the ACT Place Names Committee ensuring that they meet national and international standards.

The process starts with names being researched by his staff and then being considered by the committee. They are then put to the ACT Planning Minister or a delegate for approval before going through a ‘disallowable instrument process’ where they sit in the Legislative Assembly for six days and can be challenged by MLAs – something which rarely happens.

“One of the main things in the policy is that you want names that don’t sound like others. Unique addressing is very important,” Mr Brown said.

He said that they also only commemorate people 12 months after they have died and following consultation with the family.

“Most times you are commemorating people for their public achievements,” he said.

Do you think Canberra’s suburb and street names should be reviewed or that this would be a waste of time and money? Are there any names you are concerned about? Let us know in the comments below.

What's Your Opinion?

Please login to post your comments, or connect with
76 Responses to Move to review ‘hurtful’ Canberra place names raises concerns over time and resources
Christof Christof 9:27 pm 04 Nov 18

They should absolutely not change any street names. This is not only PC nonsense, but is a waste of time, money and environmental resources. Because new street signs would need creation, hardcopy street directories and legal documents including ownership deeds will need amendment and reprinting, vast swaths of digital information would need editing including Google maps and other mapping services, Australia post will need to update all their records and documents, people that instinctively know where the streets are will have to unlearn the old names, people will have to update addresses with all the companies they deal with and finally if someone has had personal stationary printed, they will need to throw it all out or put a sticker over the address. Just no.

I am considering figuring out how to campaign further against this as a citizen.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:56 pm 31 Oct 18

“So good to see Lake George being recognised as Weereewa……….”

First time I have heard that it has been “re-named”. It was called that before it was named Lake George about 175 years ago. I guess Lake Bathurst to the east should also be re-named Bundong then.

By the way, the location of the lake/s is in NSW, not the ACT.

Helen McIntosh Carpenter Helen McIntosh Carpenter 5:14 pm 31 Oct 18

For heavens sake, here we go again for this PC’s tax payers money being wasted.

Jackson Bond Jackson Bond 5:00 pm 31 Oct 18

Up until today I had never even heard of Bec Cody, and a quick straw poll at work of fifteen people (all Canberra residents) also revealed that no-one had ever heard of her. This is obviously just a massive 'LOOK AT ME' tantrum from someone who has discovered that they are basically irrelevant.

Jane Stubbs Jane Stubbs 4:20 pm 31 Oct 18


Marg Christensen Marg Christensen 2:03 pm 31 Oct 18

As part of this ‘review’ how about we reintroduce Indigenous names for places in the ACT. So good to see Lake George being recognised as Weereewa.

Anthony Gordo Anthony Gordo 10:25 pm 30 Oct 18

We might not need some sort of full audit but if there's places named after people that clearly shouldn't be honoured than I totally support changing them. I get it that some people think it's not important but it IS important - it says something really unpleasant about us when we are happy to drive around on streets named after child abusers and indigenous murderers.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 10:06 pm 30 Oct 18

Soft City. Get over yourselves whoever's had this brain fart

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:50 pm 30 Oct 18

The Drum on ABC TV gave this matter the once over tonight. Even the token conservative panel journalist agreed that it could be done in some cases.

The others on the panel (progressives of course) all agreed that we should change anything that happened 200 years ago that they deem offends some people.

Karen Abbott Karen Abbott 6:01 pm 30 Oct 18


Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 4:21 pm 30 Oct 18

PC gone mad again. Leave well enough alone!

    John Taylor John Taylor 5:40 pm 30 Oct 18

    Political Correctness gone mad is preferable to patriotic correctness gone utterly deranged

    John Taylor John Taylor 9:48 pm 30 Oct 18

    What do you want?

imhotep imhotep 2:55 pm 30 Oct 18

“…Ms Cody said that during her 30 plus years as a hairdresser, people often raised with her the hurt they felt over particular place names…”

Leaving aside the rather remarkable claim that the merits of WWI generals were regular topics of conversation in Ms Cody’s hairdressing salon, I believe most of you opposed to this are missing the point.

The outrage IS the point. Most of the Guardian set couldn’t tell you the first thing about Haig or Monash or even Slim, other than that they were old white men. They don’t care. The merits of the argument don’t matter.

It’s sufficient that the ‘mainstream’ seem to object, as can be seen here. Therefore, as a ‘progressive’, you must throw your support behind the proposal and in your mind register another win for this politician/government . Job done. Green/left politics 101.

Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 1:16 pm 30 Oct 18

I was just thinking the same as you wrote Danielle Smith

TimboinOz TimboinOz 1:03 pm 30 Oct 18

No, not at all.

In the case of CEW Bean, the reality is that once Monash was appointed cmdr of the Australian Corps he wrote to Murdoch who was, at least, as much against Monash’s appointment, to the effect that he intended to be respectful, and loyally supportive.

And, he was.

Anti-semitism was endemic in our society back then, but we didn’t then have gangs of anti-semitic monsters out in the streets, like we do now!

Just as much as the ‘crazy right’ we also have ‘silly left’ stuff like this, and, authoritarian green nonsense, like laws designed to always blame drivers for accidents between cyclists and powered vehicles on roads. Bad policy, dumb laws.

Danielle Smith Danielle Smith 12:57 pm 30 Oct 18

No one is forcing you to live on a particular street if you are offended by its name. Pull your heads in Canberra, stop being so sensitive 🙄

Tarz Lam Tarz Lam 12:29 pm 30 Oct 18

Just change them already.

Terry Butters Terry Butters 11:47 am 30 Oct 18

Waste of time and money! Do something useful!

Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 11:45 am 30 Oct 18

How about prioritise the review of signs that are called into question as they are called out, rather than this wholesale and expensive approach?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:24 am 30 Oct 18

I didn’t support SSM but I am not offended by the street name in Garran called “Gay Place” so, no need to change that name.

Elizabeth Quinn Elizabeth Quinn 10:57 am 30 Oct 18

When no one in Canberra is living on the streets, THEN maybe there will be the time and money to do this!

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Region Group Pty Ltd

Search across the site