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Ngunnawal elders call to rename Mt Ainslie, Black Mountain, other Canberra landmarks

Genevieve Jacobs 11 July 2019 82

United Ngunnawal Elders Council chair Roslyn Brown is arguing that many ACT landmarks need new names. Photo: G Jacobs.

The senior voice representing the ACT’s traditional owners, the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, wants many of Canberra’s most significant landmarks to reclaim their Aboriginal names, alongside the names they were given by European settlers.

Speaking as NAIDOC Week begins, they have called for “a sense of belonging through the sharing of our ancient names with all Australians”, nominating Black Mountain, Mt Ainslie, Mount Majura, Gibraltar Rocks and Yankee Hat among the landmarks that need to be recognised differently.

Robert Campbell probably named Majura after “Majura in India”, according to the ACT National Trust, while Mt Ainslie recognises Campbell’s Duntroon overseer, James Ainslie. Black Mountain and Red Hill were both also likely named by early settlers, while Gibraltar Rocks commemorates the Mediterranean landmark and Yankee Hat, site of the ACT’s only Aboriginal rock art, is said to resemble 19th century American headgear.

“It would show far more respect for the Ngunnawal people, for all Canberrans and for the nation as a whole to have names nominated by Ngunnawal people through the Council,” said Council chair Aunty Roslyn Brown. “It would be great for Reconciliation and it would help us to know that mainstream Australia does care.”

The proposed names are still being considered by the Elders’ Council, but Roslyn said they envisage a process similar to the transition between Ayers Rock and Uluru. “People have come on board more and more with the name change as they felt a sense of ownership and belonging,” she says. “Most people now use the correct name for Uluru but a similar process of transition here makes it easier for people who might feel uncomfortable at first.”

Aunty Roslyn says the Council means no disrespect to the people whose names are currently used, but she believes the use of Aboriginal names will give ownership of the national capital’s landmarks to all Australians.

“They were a sign of times when they were originally named, but it’s the 21st century now. By adopting the names we’ve nominated we are sharing and also embracing our non-indigenous brothers and sisters, and we hope they will come to accept and love the names,” she said.

Historian and Bunurong, Punniler panner and Yuin man Bruce Pascoe, whose book Dark Emu examined Aboriginal land use and landscape interpretation, has argued for a dual naming system across Australia.

He believes that around two thirds of place names in Australia already have Aboriginal origins and is calling for a thorough analysis of place names as a way of bringing the country together. While many refer to flora, fauna or landscape features, others refer to the arrival of Europeans or even massacre sites.

“To learn the names we’ll have to go through a period of discomfort because it’s an uncomfortable history. But it’s better than going through a period of ignorance,” Mr Pascoe said to ABC Radio this year.

“You learn the name, you learn your country.”

The ACT recently made the decision to rename William Slim Drive after controversy surrounding the war hero was revealed. There have also been calls to rename Haig Park, named for Field Marshal Haig.

Should we reclaim Aboriginal place names in the ACT?


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82 Responses to
Ngunnawal elders call to rename Mt Ainslie, Black Mountain, other Canberra landmarks
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phoon 10:14 am 11 Jul 19

Definitely not. It’s hard to see how this is more inclusive for “all Canberrans” when it is effectively renaming our landmarks for about 1% of the ACT population. Black Mountain is Black Mountain, Mount Majura is Mount Majura.

People like to say that the only culture and history that Australia has is indigenous culture but that is not the case.

Changing the names may make that 1% feel better in some way but most of the aboriginal people I know are actually embarrassed by elders advocating this sort of pointless symbolism and would rather have effort put in to things that actually effect them.

Like it or not, Australia is what it is today because of its settlers. Yes, bad things were done by them but name a period in history where bad things were never done. Renaming places that already have names just to appease some activists is simply window dressing and does not address any of the real issues that are faced by those communities. We need to grow up.

12:41 pm 11 Jul 19

how exciting 100% let’s do it

12:42 pm 11 Jul 19

Yes please - hurry up

12:50 pm 11 Jul 19

Absolutely. Do it.

12:52 pm 11 Jul 19

Great idea

12:56 pm 11 Jul 19

About time! Most peaks in NZ are now known by their traditional names. Come on Australia..... keep up!

12:57 pm 11 Jul 19

Yes! Let the hills tell their stories.

12:58 pm 11 Jul 19

Or go a step further and replace the European names with their Aboriginal names.

    1:45 pm 11 Jul 19

    Frances Jane I suspect this will be the long term plan ... duel for transition and to soften it for those who struggle with the idea. It keeps more folks onside.

    1:50 pm 11 Jul 19

    I'm hoping so, too.

12:58 pm 11 Jul 19

So what their names pls?

12:59 pm 11 Jul 19

Let's do it

1:00 pm 11 Jul 19

Mt Panorama in Bathurst is also officially called Wahlu

1:08 pm 11 Jul 19

This is wonderful. The transition of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Djuta (the Olgas) is a great example of how this transition can be managed sensitively. I rarely now hear "Ayers Rock" and I'm startled when I do.

I'm excited to hear the names selected by the Ngunnawal Council

1:13 pm 11 Jul 19

I absolutely support this!

1:14 pm 11 Jul 19

Definitely support dual names. Great idea with a respectful outcome. 👏👏👏👍

1:16 pm 11 Jul 19

Absolutely! This would be wonderful. How can we better acknowledge that is is Aboriginal land than to call landmarks by Ngunnawal names. What a wonderful way to feel connected with ngunnawal culture

1:32 pm 11 Jul 19

Oh, if it's alongside European names, I support this. Why not?

1:46 pm 11 Jul 19

Love this idea! Particularly like the idea of joint manners and a transition time, but it would be fabulous to know what these landmarks were called and at least some of their significance.

1:51 pm 11 Jul 19

Awesome idea

1:53 pm 11 Jul 19

They can call them whatever they like. I won't be changing it

1:57 pm 11 Jul 19

The elders are so right 👏✅

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