28 July 2020


28 July 2020


This is an important matter which this Council ought to be debated in the community as council and the community consider an aboriginal name for Blacks Camp Reserve.

Victoria has a long tradition over 200 years of European settlement of officially naming places with local aboriginal names. Evocative names such as Borombeet, Ballaarat, Wendouree, Warrenheip, Buninyong, Birrigurrah, Moorabool, Millewa, Tullamarine and even Yarra spring to mind as sophisticated diverse names.

Here on the southern Mornington Peninsula, local and equally evocative names such as the Tootgarook swamp, the Gunammatta surf beach, Kangerong Ward, and Wannaeue Place in Rosebud – all actually identified with the particular place – come to mind. And would not Wannaeue be a fabulous name for Rosebud or this Shire.

So it a disappointment not to find in management’s report for renaming the Blacks Camp Reserve in Somerville – described in in the Place Names Victoria documents as “a town in a diminishing rural hinterland towards the north of the Mornington Peninsula” – the same intellectual rigour applied in the search for the aboriginal name for this Council owned Reserve.

We ought not be careless about this.

I am reminded by what Keith Hancock wrote in 1929 – ninety years ago now – writing powerfully about the “Invasion of Australia” –

“[T]he British have imposed themselves upon it with their barbed-wire and railways and commercial journalism and modern liberal ideas. Their advance resembles the forward-scattering of a horde, and sometimes, like the onrush of a horde, it has been devastating. The Australian aborigines, shut off from centuries from the co-operative intelligence by which nations who are neighbours have created their common civilization, never imagined the first decisive step from the economy of the chase which would have made them masters of the soil. Instead, they fitted themselves to the soil, modelling a complex civilization of intelligent artificiality, which yet was pathetically helpless when assailed by the acquisitive society of Europe.”

Keith Hancock, a fellow of all Souls College Oxford, but better known as Professor of Modern History at the University of Adelaide and later knighted concluded –

“Yet sometimes the invading British did their wreckers’ work with the unnecessary brutality of stupid children. The aboriginal race has always possessed enthusiastic friends but the friends have never agreed upon a consistent and practical policy for [their] preservation.”

How much and how little has changed in 90 years. Reported in the Age newspaper on Saturday June 13, one of Australia’s leading historian Stuart McIntyre writing about the recent removal of statues and other memorials in the USA and UK –

“I recognize that a number of these monuments are extremely offensive to people for whom they have a meaning of repression and even extermination. The problem is that, if you remove them, you are removing the capacity for people to have an informed awareness of what has happened in the past and things that have changed since.”

I welcome the move to find a truly aboriginal name such they used for Blacks Camp Reserve, and we all will go on to use, for this important place.