It’s time ‘white’ Australians stopped with the virtue signalling

posted in: Life and things, Miscellaneous | 0
Uluru via Pexels

There’s been a move in Australia that’s gathering pace to rename places from European names to aboriginal names. Generally speaking, it’s a great idea, especially because the European name tended to be the name of the person who ‘discovered’ the location, or the person who paid for the expedition that did. A good example is Ayres Rock which these days is known around the world as Uluru. It was first sighted by Europeans in 1872 and named in 1873.  I expect the Anangu people, and probably a few other tribes, knew about that monolith in the middle of Australia tens of thousands of years ago.

I’ve mentioned before that the erstwhile Fraser Island, just over the strait from where we live, has recently returned to its Butchulla name, K’Gari. Then there’s the Bungle Bungles, now known as Purnululu, Wittenoom Gorge National Park, (Karijini), Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda) and many, many others.

But I draw the line at giving our cities aboriginal names. We’re told “the traditional Aboriginal name of Melbourne is Naarm and Naarm is the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation. The Kulin Nation is a collective of five Aboriginal clans: Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wathaurrung, Taungurung and Dja DjaWrung.” [1] Please don’t misunderstand the title ‘nation’. It was not an entity as known in Western culture. Each of these groups had their own language, laws, and traditions. And they didn’t build cities.

Over in India, Calcutta has become Kolkata, Bombay is Mumbai, and Madras is Chennai. That’s right and proper. Those cities existed long, long before the British Raj and were no doubt referred to by their original names by the inhabitants. But Melbourne didn’t exist until 1835 when the first settlers landed at what would become the corner of William and Flinders Street. [2] The same is true of all of Australia’s cities and towns. Sure, the rivers on which most of them are built would have had aboriginal names. Over in Perth the Swan River’s name in Noongar is Derbarl Yerrigan. King’s Park, the majestic height that overlooks the river, has several aboriginal names – (‘Kaarta Koomba’, ‘Kaarta Gar-up’ or ‘Mooro Kaarta’) [3] And so on.

But Europeans are also part of Australia’s history.

All over Europe for thousands of years waves of people moved from one area to another through wars or simply migration. Britain’s towns have names that betray their origin. This fascinating article explains the etymology of place names dating back to the Celts, Romans, Normans, and Anglo-Saxons. A few examples –  

  • The Angles gave their name to East Anglia and ‘England’ itself, and Sussex, Middlesex and Wessex were named for South, Middle and West Saxons.
  • ‘Pen’ in a place name, like Penge, Pendleton or Penrith, usually comes from the Celtic for hill or headland.
  • After the legions left in the early 5th century, Britons adopted the Latin word ‘castrum’ to denote places with Roman military links. Today that’s reflected in places with ‘chester’, ‘cester’ or ‘caster’ in their name – and there are plenty of these, like Leicester, Chester, Bicester, Cirencester, Caister, Colchester, Gloucester, Manchester, Tadcaster and Winchester.
  • Oxford means ‘ford for Oxen’, Swinton in Greater Manchester means ‘pig village’, Gateshead means ‘goat’s promontory’ and Hertford is ‘ford for harts’, another word for deer in Anglo-Saxon.

Nobody is clamouring to change those names.

For my part, I’m happy to acknowledge the aboriginal people and their ties to the land. But I am a naturalised Australian of European heritage and I think European names like Perth and Melbourne are also part of the tapestry of history in this country.

For me, it goes hand in hand with apologising for terrible things done in the past by people I’m not even related to. Should I with my Dutch ancestry apologise to the Balinese for the terrible things the Dutch did in that country? And what would saying sorry do? Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to the Stolen Generation (the many aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families between 1910 – 1970) hasn’t done anything to improve the conditions for women and children in isolated aboriginal communities.

It’s time ‘white’ Australians stopped with the virtue signalling (which includes the Voice) and accept that we’re just as entitled to live here as everybody else. We’re all in this together.

And because I’m still playing with Midjourney, here are a few creations.

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