By DAMIEN NOVAK
Inner West Greens Councillor Colin Hesse has drawn both praise and protest for a proposal to rename Victoria Road in Marrickville because of its links to colonial Britain.
The road, which traverses the suburb and is one of the busiest in the local area, is named after Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1819 until her death in 1901.
Cr Hesse’s notice of motion, tabled at the Inner West Council meeting on Monday, 24 May, called for a change to the name of the thoroughfare, because it represented a regime that was “catastophic” to Australia’s First Nations people.
“For Aboriginal peoples the invasion of the British Empire was catastrophic,” the motion said.
“The British stole their lands, fouled their waters, took their food, and Aboriginal peoples were murdered or died of imported diseases.
“A new name may be a small token of reconciliation.”
The motion called on the council to consult with the council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee regarding an appropriate name, suggesting that ‘Gumbramorra’ be among the names considered.
The name ‘Gumbramorra’ refers to the Gumbramorra Swamp, the former wetlands area in the vicinity of the present-day Victoria Road.
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said he supported the change in principle.
“Aboriginal renaming is really important that’s why we renamed wards with Aboriginal names,” the Labor mayor said, referring to the council’s decision to give its five wards Indigenous names.
In December 2018, the council voted to name all five wards after local Aboriginal words for endemic fauna and flora. Ashfield was named Djarrawunang (Magpie); Balmain was dubbed Baludarri (Leather Jacket); Leichhardt, Gulgadya (Grass Tree); Marrickville, Midjuburi (Lillypilly); and Stanmore was given the moniker Damun (Port Jackson Fig).
Liberal Councillor Julie Passas expressed opposition to Cr Hesse’s plans, telling the meeting the council had bigger issues to worry about.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that things years ago were wrong, let’s make sure they never happen again,” Cr Passas said.
“But people want their footpaths fixed … people want the streets cleaned, nobody wants street names changed.”
However, Cr Passas ultimately supported the motion, which was carried unanimously.
Cr Hesse told the meeting: “This is about respect – and that’s where it starts and stops with me.”
The proposal will now be presented to the next Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee meeting on 15 June, 2021 for further discussion.
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