NSW landmarks to have dual names PDF Print E-mail

PLANS by the NSW Government to introduce the dual naming of landmarks and geographical features throughout the State, have been welcomed by FATSIL, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the ATSIC State Advisory Committee.

The initiative announced recently by the New South Wales Minister for Information Technology, Kim Yeadon, will see dual names applied to geographical features and landmarks, after consultation with Aboriginal community representatives. No changes will be made to the names of suburbs, towns or streets.

A committee comprising representatives from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Local Government and State Government agencies has been established to review the broad guidelines for the proposal, and to ensure the effective operation of the system once it has been established.

FATSIL Chairperson, Lester Coyne praised the Government initiative. "This move to maintain language heritage in NSW enriches all Australians and all those who visit the country. As language promotion continues and keeps gaining momentum, we're well aware of the fact that it's not only Indigenous people in this country who care about the protection of our language heritage.The NSW Government has taken positive
steps to acknowledge that, and at the same time set a great example for other States and Territories to follow."

Announcing the proposal, Kim Yeadon also referred to the linking of cultures that would result. "Aboriginal cultural heritage is the foundation of our uniquely Australian story," MrYeadon said. "Dual Naming recognises that both European and Indigenous names reflect the history, culture and identity of NSW It is very important that this system is community driven,workable, culturally aware and cost effective."

NSW already has a policy for new place names that gives preference to words of Aboriginal origin. However, Dual Naming will go a step further, applying to already-named cultural and environmental features such as mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, harbours, islands, beaches, headlands, valleys and caves.

ATSIC Sydney Regional Council Chairperson, Maxine Conaty speaking on behalf of the State Advisory Committee (SAC), said,"The dual naming of geographic features and places of cultural and spiritual importance can't be underestimated. It acknowledges that the original owners of this land have not only survived but that our language and culture is alive and being maintained and cared for."

Chairman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Rod Twomey has been involved in the process of consultation. "This initiative is one the Land Council has been closely associated with. Of course we wholeheartedly support any move to recognise the Aboriginal languages of NSW, and to further the education of the broader community on issues involving our heritage and culture.We'll certainly be working closely with the Government and other members of the Geographical Names Board to ensure Aboriginal place names are recognised and supported by all Australians."

"Certainly, it's encouraging to see Aboriginal words in the white vocabulary. Initiatives such as these, although they may seem small, can help to promote greater understanding between black and white and highlight the need to preserve Aboriginal culture and heritage."

"We congratulate the State Government on its commitment to making this a community driven and culturally sensitive project," Chairman Towney concluded.

The  international context for dual naming

Discussion at Helsinki in 1990 between Australian and Canadian naming authorities led to Canada's decision to adopt the following dual naming principles:

  1. The principle of dual/ alternate naming be accepted in the aboriginal context, except in the case of populated areas;
  2. The status of each name in the dual/alternate context be clearly specified;
  3. The use of dual and/or alternate names be given further consideration especially in the context of:
    • use of the English generic either as an additional or as a replacement for the aboriginal generic: and
    • possible orthographic adaptations of the name.
  4. Gazetteers incorporating aboriginal names should always cross reference dual and/or alternate names.

On 23 August 1993, the United Nations' Working Group on Indigenous Populations produced its final Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 14, concerned with naming and other rights, provides:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalise, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literature, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.