Both Queensland and the Northern Territory have made moves this month to review and change place names which could be offensive and hurtful to Aboriginal people.
In May Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines responded to community concerns about one place name by removing it from its databases. This sparked a departmental review which identified nine other place names which will be changed.
The Northern Territory has quickly followed suit, with NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner asking the place names committee to carry out a review and make changes where necessary. Minister Gunner has also publicly committed to more inclusive signage including Aboriginal place names as well as their frontier history versions.
“It’s very clear to me that we don’t have a proper inclusion of the first people in our very basic culture. And I want to work on that,” he said.
Jonathan Richards, who is an adjunct research fellow in history at the University of Queensland, believes that the argument for changing place names, as well as removing statues of pro-slavery figures, is clear cut. He believes that some people’s desire to maintain offensive historical names and monuments is partly due to a reluctance by Australians in general to acknowledge the truths of colonial history. He believes that telling the real stories behind names such as ‘Murder Creek’ and ‘Skull Hole’ is critically important.
“”I think certainly there are statues and place names that it’s fine to keep, but I think people really need to stop and think, ‘How would they feel?’ You wouldn’t for a minute have a statue of an enemy, yet Aboriginal people are constantly being told to get over it.”
University of Queensland race relations research fellow Fiona Barlow believes that the name changes may improve Aboriginal people’s health.
“There’s been multiple studies now that have shown that repeated exposure to everyday racism has negative effects on our health and wellbeing… Renaming these places… sends a symbolic message about what we value as Australians and it could have a genuine positive affect on health.”
Read more ~ Racist place names in Queensland’s north to be wiped off maps by Meghna Bali in ABC News