Australia: The right to name public places?

Australia’s fight over place names

When should a public place be renamed? The debate is often complex. In Australia, many would like to see names reflect a more modern, equal nation. Gary Nunn reports from Sydney. In November last year, 30,000 Australians gathered biting their nails in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park, all watching a giant widescreen.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) politician Bec Cody wants to rename parts of Canberra, writing last month that some “are named after bad people, and are hurtful to the victims”. She said she had received letters from constituents who had expressed pain about current names.

She tells the BBC: “At the time some places in Canberra were named, not all the facts about some people were known and community attitudes towards some behaviour was very different than today.”

Ms Cody says that the most common feedback has related to places named after people accused of crimes, persecuting indigenous Australians, and controversial actions during war. Kado Muir, an anthropologist and archaeologist specialising in Aboriginal heritage and native title says: “Renaming” is a misnomer: “It’s actually recognising the original names of these places.

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