29 October 2018

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

| Glynis Quinlan
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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.

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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 Retro10:56 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.

Capital Retro8:50 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.

“…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.

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.

Capital Retro11:24 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.

Literally re-writing history! Brilliant! How about the ACT Government sets up an entire department to rank each place name based on the alleged character of the person. Then each year we can change the bottom 100 or so to something more appropriate??

I’d suggest most Canberrans, myself included, wouldn’t know the basis of 90% of place names and could not care less. Not an issue.

Who exactly is going to decide which names are hurtful or offensive?

What are the odds that this move would end up tinged with ridiculous amounts of political correctness?

Capital Retro8:44 am 30 Oct 18

Engineering a name change in the suburb of Cook will be difficult because it is named after both New Holland’s evil invader Capt Cook and a former PM.

Capital Retro8:18 am 30 Oct 18

Why limit this to street/place names?

What about statues, like the one in the foyer of the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre in London Circuit?

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

So is this going to be the next step in the ongoing culture wars with the suburb of Cook in the line of fire because its name is hurtful?

This can not be serious…? LOL

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