Australia

Chipping Away at Names for the Nation

Does anyone remember when portraits of the Queen used to hang in public offices and schools? Two versions were usually seen: the 1954 painting by Sir William Dargie showing Her Majesty in her “wattle dress” and Pietro Annigoni’s 1955 portrait with Windsor Castle in the background.

You won’t find them now. They were surrept­itiously removed at some time after the Whitlam revolution. There was no public announcement, no debate. They just vanished, presumably as a result of some internal unreported pro-republican edict from deep in the public service.

That is how the Left—and the public service, in Australia anyway, is an ally if not a component of the Left—likes to work. No fuss, no consultation, no government policy announcement, just the slow silent advance of the leftward-flowing tide. And what do leftist bureaucrats care if a supposedly conservative government is in power? It never lifts a finger to direct the tide the other way. Look at the “Australian” curriculum. Look at the Australia Council and the money it squanders on leftist “culture”. Look at the price of energy in a resource-rich land thanks to our obeisance to the superstition of “renewables”.

This essay appears in September’s Quadrant.
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The latest instance of leftward creep comes to us courtesy of Australia Post. Desperate to find a role for itself now that so few people send letters, our postal service has quietly decided to get in on the corporate rush to social engineering. Persuading its users to “include a traditional place name in the mailing address” is the sphere of wokery it has chosen. It is hard to think of a better way of bumping up the number of items that get lost in the mail. Perhaps a traditional name will have to be devised for the dead letter office.

Actually, this brilliant idea is not Australia Post’s but was thought up by “Gomeroi woman” Rachael McPhail (and with all respect, that doesn’t sound a terribly traditional name in the way Australia Post means, does it?). Rachael, who discovered she was Aboriginal only at the age of thirty-two, has somehow persuaded the dopey management of Australia Post to adopt what is not simply one more obstacle to the easy delivery of mail but a linguistic change that is part of a bigger and more sinister picture. Resurrecting (or inventing) “traditional” place names, in a nation where, unlike Canada or South Africa, bilinguality has never been an element in our history, is part of the separatist attempt to dismantle Australia as we know it and turn it back into the paradise it allegedly was before 1788, or as close as separatists can get to that without ethnically cleansing the descendants of everyone who’s arrived here since then.

To be quite thorough about this they should also get rid of the name Australia, and no doubt Australia Post will soon adjust its name accordingly. But what to? What was the continent called in those arcadian days when whitey wasn’t even a speck on the horizon? Terra australis? You can’t go back to calling it that because it’s too like the present name they want to change. You can’t call it Terra nullius because we now recognise it wasn’t nullius. To single out as a replacement the name of one or other of the so-called “first nations” might lead to complaints of discrimination from the “nations” whose names aren’t chosen and the risk of a tribal war of the sort fantasists like Bruce Pascoe pretend never happened. It would be better to choose a neutral name. I wondered whether McPhailia would do, in honour of Rachael’s great idea, but that sounds like a badly cooked hamburger. Imagination is needed, the kind of bold inventiveness an ad agency in Melbourne showed in coming up with the Andrews government’s self-congratulatory television ads with blithe disregard for the fact that Victoria’s colander-like quarantine led to 90 per cent of the nation’s Covid deaths being recorded in that state. Why not brief them to suggest our country’s new name?

And what qualifies as a traditional name for postal purposes? There are already dozens of place names of putative Aboriginal origin in use in Australia in both city and country—Woolloomooloo, Jika Jika, Leongatha, Oodnadatta and suchlike—but they don’t give the full picture of the richness of Aboriginal culture because we have always been told that they mean nice anodyne things like “happy meeting place of the laughing waters” and “smiling mountain of the dusky dingo” and so on. We need some names that express the nitty-gritty of life in those halcyon pre-European days. Something that says, “I am going to knock your front teeth out with a rock” or “this spear is to be inserted into your thigh to make a man of you”. No doubt Rachael could supply translations for those and other concepts to be turned into place names fully expressive of Aboriginal life and lore not only as it was in the past but as it continues in areas under “traditional” control today.

If that sounds brutal, it is truthful, and too often those who spruik the Aboriginal cause—which, to be truthful again, is not really what they do: it’s not so much the Aboriginal cause that interests them as the anti-Australian one—try to draw a veil over the unpleasant elements in traditional indigenous life.

Rachael is the very model of a modern racial activist. An Australia Post media handout tells us that she “has stayed close to her First Nations roots by practising ways of decolonising her lifestyle”. Decolonising? Does she wear shoes? Does she use a mobile phone? We know she drives a car rather than, in traditional manner, walk because that’s how the place-names idea came to her. “I often drive through Wiradjuri Country and I started noticing which councils acknowledge Country on their signage,” Australia Post quotes her as saying.

Rachael found she was Aboriginal, the handout informs us, “when she learnt her great-great-grandmother had most likely left their culture to protect her son as lighter-skinned children were being taken from their families at the time”. (Unless Australia Post is going to issue all its media releases in Gomeroi it really should employ someone who can write clear English.)

When Rachael delivers “acknowledgment of country”, we are further told, “she also includes facts about the land on which the gathering is held to spread awareness”. And what would that be awareness of? Massacres? Remains of the stone-built towns testified to by Pascoe that have since mysteriously disappeared?

Of course if it’s a question of chipping away at the nation we have inherited you can be sure of finding the ABC in the thick of it. It too has started sneaking in “traditional” names in its on-screen location identifiers in news reports. Under the “official” name is the allegedly Aboriginal one. Moreover, the ABC is now so boldly sure that it can get away with anything that it admits that this has little to do with the simple designation of a locality. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC as “a partner for Reconciliation Australia’s Action Plan”, is intent on “making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander names, voices and languages an everyday part of the vocabulary”. In other words, it is intent on trying to make the nation bilingual—and what could be more separatist than that? As the ABC’s “Indigenous lead”, Phillipa McDermott (again not quite the sort of traditional appellation you’d expect), puts it, “indigenous languages and place names are not just a means of simple identification”. Their use “helps to pass on the country’s culture”—by which she means Aboriginal culture—“onto [sic] new generations”.

There is also the problem of which name to use. To take just one well known spot on the Place Names Chart helpfully supplied by the Australian Museum, Sydney Cove has four names, War-ran, Wee-rong, Warrane and Warrang. Are ABC viewers expected to be fluent in them all? Naarm, incidentally, is Melbourne. Will a nation still stop for the running of the Naarm Cup?

Political philosophers sometimes talk of “historical inevitability”. It was historical inevitability that led to the occupation, by a technologically advanced and expanding nation, of a largely empty continent peopled here and there by nomadic tribes. And surely historical inevitability, until recently, was acting to ensure that that descendants of the occupiers, with their liberal and humane beliefs and awareness of injustice as a consequence of the occupation, were moving towards an accommodation with the descendants of the Aborigines who had originally occupied the land, and to ensure also that those Aboriginal descendants, instead of only suffering the disadvantages that occupation had brought, could share in its multitudinous advantages as equal citizens of a prosperous and benevolent nation. 

Aboriginal activists, and the white ideologues who have infected them with the pernicious hate-based politics of race, imported mainly from America and clumsily applied to local conditions, have just about stopped that progress towards reconciliation, and are succeeding in replacing it with a policy of separatism from which only those who wish to see Australia in its present form destroyed can hope to profit. Talk about “nations” and “treaties” is part of the strategy of these new racialists. So, in a minor way, is the proposal to use Aboriginal place names, which will not stop at that, but will go on, as at Ayers Rock, to demand abolition of the conventional name given to our towns and cities by the people of European descent who built them. Australia Post and the ABC should be ashamed of conniving at this conspiracy to bring about the ultimate dismemberment of the nation whose name they bear.

And by the way, the language manipulators of the new racialism are coming for your property. Watch out for another sly semantic adjustment that public servants and their like are sneaking into government and official communications. If you own land—anything from a house block to a sheep station—you are no longer a landowner but a landholder. Now why would that be? Is it to reinforce the idea that the real proprietors of Australia are the “traditional owners, past, present and future” as it’s becoming obligatory to recite umpteen times a week in those “traditional” ceremonies that go all the way back to the 1970s? That the rest of us are here on a kind of tenancy? You might have thought the ceremonies were merely a polite fiction to make everyone feel nice, but don’t be deceived. You can’t have two lots of owners, so get ready to hand over your keys, landholder.

Christopher Akehurst, a frequent contributor, lives in Melbourne

25 comments
  • Ian MacKenzie

    Australia is so far behind our cousins across the Tasman where Aotearoa/New Zealand is now the form favoured by the wokeratti. This process has been going on for some time with prominent places and topographic features named with a combination of Maori and English, but always Maori first, so Aoraki/Mount Cook, never Mount Cook/Aoraki. Similarly the many places in New Zealand with Maori names are never now given English names. This one-way process has gone to completion in several areas, as for instance Mount Egmont changed to Taranaki/Mount Egmont to now officially Taranaki Maunga under the Ardern government. This process of decolonization will doubtless continue in favour of Maori who were, ironically, colonists themselves.
    Perhaps the reason this process hasn’t reached a national level in Australian yet is that pre first-contact Aboriginal Australians were unaware of the nature of Australia; their horizons were confined to their tribal areas. In contrast Maori were well aware of the island nature of New Zealand, having sailed across the Pacific to get there 750 years ago. Aotearoa translates to Land of the Long White Cloud (aka wrong white crowd) which is supposedly the first sign of land when the new Maori colonists got there.
    It will be difficult to give an Aboriginal name which has never existed to Australia, but give Bruce Pascoe a go and I’m sure he’ll come up with one.

  • Tezza

    I wasn’t aware of the place names wheeze at Australia Post, but I suppose that is because I seldom receive and never send addressed mail. But I was only too aware that the ABC was in on the act, on ABC Classic FM of all places. The use of aboriginal names to disguise the locations of Australia’s various symphony orchestras and concert halls is particularly ludicrous, unless of course Bruce Pascoe tells us that aboriginals actually had symphony orchestras and concert halls.

  • Biggles

    Old Boys of my High School have witnessed socialist destructionism in the form of removal from the entrance lobby of photographic portraits of well-dressed past headmasters wearing three-piece suits and ties. Those of us who new some of them were, in retrospect, proud of them, especially of those who had served Australia in war. No more, comrades; it’s down into the nether regions of the socialist gutter that today’s teachers wish to direct their pupils.

  • Karnjirrwala

    The way the ABC are deploying these names assumes or rather, insists, that these names had no history, it assumes that there was no contribution to the meaning from the circumstances where, by whom and from the relationship between the recorder and the informant. In fact the ‘meaning’ of these words has no stable reference outside these historical conditions. This, on examination, is another instance whereby Aborigines are reified as people outside history with a culture 50+ thousand years old, whose essence transcends time, the very essence of racism.

  • John B Good

    My view is that Aboriginal children would have a far better chance to live a good life if they were encouraged and coached to accept reality as it is, and exploit the great positive opportunities presented by reality, and not spend their lives dreaming about things that never happened and things that can never be.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I’ve always thought that the term “Aboriginal culture” is a ridiculous concept, if not entirely oxymoronic. Whatever remnants of the myriad customs and habits of the very diverse and widely scattered original occupants of this continent still exist, I doubt if any are older than a couple of hundred years. Most are no older than a couple of decades. That we should persist with this humbuggery is pathetic.

  • STD

    Regarding the picture atop of this page.
    To paraphrase: Knuckle heads are leading the fight to smash the state and don’t change the date, .our Australia Day , has now become their left wing Marxist invasion day – greedy little piggies want everything that is authentic and good all for themselves.
    Sounds very reminiscent of what can truly be regarded as the Orwell oink!
    An eye for an eye ,or an eye for a sty, to quote the investment actions of one PJ Keating.
    I don’t mean to offend Aboriginal sensibilities but nobody cannibalises other people, their children ( education) their cultures, their religion, their happiness ,well-being and hard earned wealth like green( envious) left wing Marxists.
    I’m sorry did I hear someone say change the state of………………………other people’s minds.
    Maybe this is why lefties look so unhappy and humourless, their source of happiness is unhappiness – others people’s ,no less.

  • Katzenjammer

    Will Australia Post allow the postcode to be translated into Aboriginal numerals?

  • Adam J

    What is missing is recognition of the fact that Aboriginal place names are not names for places as we now have them. The author of this article makes the same mistake when he states that “Naarm, incidentally, is Melbourne.” But Naarm is not Melbourne. Melbourne is a city founded by British colonists, and a city is not an Aboriginal concept. Naarm might be an area now covered by this city, but it is not a name for a city; and if it was then it was a name made up by Aborigines to refer to someone else’s city and is therefore secondary.
    We won’t win this fight by falling for their tricks. Naarm is not Melbourne and never will be.
    @Doubting Thomas: All Aboriginal languages alive today are descended from a single language that came to Australia with the dingo around 5,000 years ago (History of Languages by Professor Steven Fischer). This proves incontestably that the Aborigines today arrived at that time and married into or displaced the pre-existing occupants, acquiring their genes and culture and some words along the way.
    We simply have no way of knowing about the prehistoric Aborigines from 40,000 years ago because they were quite literally cavemen. Exactly like cavemen in Europe 40,000 years ago.
    I note that in the past the Australian Natives Association lobbied for the use of Aboriginal names, always in an Anglicised form. How ironic that this inherently reconciliatory activity is now being used to facilitate anti-White racism (and that is exactly what it is).

  • vickisanderson

    The great irony of this debate is that Australia is saturated with Aboriginal place names! They not only serve as names of suburbs (eg Wooloomooloo, Kirrawee, Woolooware, Cammeray, Cronulla, Maroubra, Bilgola, Bondi, Curl Curl et al) but towns & regions (Ulladulla, Mudgee, Cunnamulla, Baerami, Cassilis, Moree, Wallerewang, Monaro et al). I would wager that only those who have travelled extensively throughout Australia would realise how pervasive this is. I also wonder if it is indeed those “urban woke” who have rarely left their suburban nests that are the most guilty of the ignorance of this nomenclature.

    I have also always considered this one of the greatest tributes and acknowledgment of the original inhabitants that you could offer.

  • vickisanderson

    BTW the early explorers and settlers would often ask local Aborigines what they called a place, and that is how many names “stuck”. Due to the difference in pronunciation, and the inhabitants not having a written language, these names were most often transliterated from the somewhat gutteral language, so that they not not always accurate representations. Sometimes the local person would make a casual answer, such as, “that is a mountain” & this, somewhat comically, became the name of an area.

  • Adam J

    That’s exactly right, Vicki. And notice that the colonists Anglicized and used those names without a second’s hesitation, and without controversy, and without much political effort (and if it came to politics, it would be native whites not Aborigines pushing it). The campaign to use ‘traditional place names’ is actually about replacing the English language.

  • Daffy

    In the interest of decolonization, will the various ‘native’ descendants give back the roads? (Apologies to the LIfe of Brian)

  • Lawriewal

    Katzenjammer,
    Why stop at the postcode being shown in the original aboriginal numeral equivalents?
    Surely we need the whole address in aboriginal writing.
    Of course it would have to be the official high-aboriginal that the whole aboriginal first-nation adhered to and not some local dialect which could confuse.
    Professor Pascoe would doubtless be delighted to assist in this effort moving us all to reconcile into one highly advanced aboriginal nation.

  • STD

    Wallaby stew, address – Location, the black fella way. the 3rd Scribbly gum ( Eucalyptus Haemastoma) on the left, next to the spotted gum ( or Corymbia Maculata) 3rd branch, the one wth bracket fungus!
    I will leave the pronunciation to your individual cultural( tribal) wants- dialect and station hip pocket.
    .

  • restt

    In line with name changes, the first stop for review should be Aboriginal – we should only refer to people who are full blood as Aboriginals as initially intended.
    A Commonwealth Law that introduces an administrative definition of Aboriginal doesn’t create a race … it just creates a definition for the application of a law. So such people who may fall under that definition should be call administrative aboriginals or AA for short – which is easier.

    Or more relevantly partial descent European and Aboriginal people by race should be called Abopean (this goes along with Antipodean) or Cauciginal (representing Caucasian and Aboriginal). Such names accurately reflect race. Eurasian is openly used all the time to represent European and Asian defence.

    There are 22,000 full blood and correctly defined Aboriginals in Australia. Quite seperate and distinctly there is supposedly 800,000 AA or Cauciginal people in Australia and growing – and why wouldn’t it. Free education, special and separate health care and legal services and any other number of extensive freebies for the AA regardless of need.

  • Brian Boru

    I am always puzzled when I consider how disparate groups of about 300,000 Aboriginals could have been expected to maintain their hold on Australia which has now been demonstrated as able to sustain 25 million people. This in the face of people throughout the world who were literally starving.
    .
    I note that not one bleeding heart has addressed this question nor shown how the populating of Australia could have been better managed in the circumstances of the time.

  • abrogard

    It’s all just because we are weak. ‘They’ are opportunistic. With nothing to lose. With a sense of fun. With a sense of malice. With an eye out for the main chance. With bunches of ‘mates’ or family or at least like minded people.
    ‘We’ are on the one hand weak or stupid or vain administrators etc. happy to accede to the demands of powerful presences, voices, people, demands that seem intimidatory, threatening and somehow in possession of some high moral ground or something.
    And on the other hand separate millions of individuals with no real voice, always blindsided by our ‘own’ administrators and department heads etc. Millions of weak, vacillating, can’t be bothered, uncertain individuals who aren’t game to speak up and say ‘No’.
    The whole thing is bullshit. I’ll say it. As crudely as that. That’s as crude as ‘they’ put their side and I’ll put it from my side: It’s all bullshit. From start to finish.
    And the root cause of it all? That whacker Mabo decision.
    The fact is Australia was taken by the Crown and there’s an end on it.
    Within that ‘taking’ it was well able to give Eddie Mabo and his family land they’d used for all their lives just the same way as we have settler grants and such now.
    There was no need whatever beyond judicial smart-arsing to invent a half born Australia totally belonging to the Crown except where it isn’t and then it can be at the drop of a hat.
    Bullshit.
    We came here as subjects of the Crown.
    And the Crown took this place. And owns it all.
    And we all remain equal subjects of the Crown.
    If you don’t like it: get out.

  • Searcher

    A spade is a horticultural implement, but communist agitprop is still communist agitprop. I didn’t find those words in the article.

  • Rebekah Meredith

    abrogard–Why do we need to be as crude as ‘they’ are? Why stoop to their level? Can our arguments not stand on their own without filthy language? No true cause is ever aided by descending into the gutter.

  • Adam J

    As far as I understand, Mabo only applied to Torres Strait Islanders. It was Paul Keating’s Native Title Legislation that applied it to the ‘Abopeans’ and ‘Caurigals’. That application of course is entirely inappropriate. Aborigines did not own land like others did and therefore cannot have ‘title’. They did suffer harm from being driven off traditional hunting and foraging grounds etc, but this was already recognised even in the colonial period. The solution is compensation for economic and cultural loss, not granting title to land they didn’t have.

  • restt

    I agree Adam J. Mabo applied to Mer Island. They had individual family land, houses/huts and collectively a village – they grew crops which is critical in consideration of “proprietors of the soil”.

    But to claim native title 100 years after Australia annexed it and it is now private land – where everyone else in the country provided roads, buildings, electricity etc etc seems like seems like deceitful theft to me. They can have their land …. But do taxpaying citizens get their money back.

    Aboriginals had no such concepts as the Mer Islanders. The native title act should never have passed and it’s underlying assumptions designed in consultation with Langdon and other activists is completely at odds with British land law.

    But alas the lie overtakes the truth and the rest is history.

  • Tricone

    Let’s change the date, every day!

  • pmprociv

    So, when are Oz Post and the ABC going to change THEIR names? And to what? I still haven’t heard or seen a name for our continent, in any Aboriginal language. No doubt one will soon be confected. Brucepascolia, anyone? Or perhaps Darkemuina?

  • subrosa

    I saw a large billboard that said on one side “Made in Naarm” and on the other “Behind the Mac”. From a marketing point of view, traditional names are a fantastic way to exoticise the ordinary while sounding compassionate. No need to reflect on the possibility that forced labour goes into creating an Apple product when they “honour” elders, past, present, and emerging. But Melbourne is not called Naarm. Melbourne is a city, therefore it is called Melbourne.

    Considering that some Aboriginal men and women would have been involved in the hard toil of building early Melbourne in the first place, this renaming business seems like an indirect way to disenfranchise descendants in the name of “inclusivity”.

    Naarm, or nerm, or neerim, was a word reported to Aboriginal Protector William Thomas to describe the Port Phillip Bay Area, specifically the small bays and inlets. Melbourne is inland and built upon a mudflat divided by the “Yarra Yarra” (sparking waters). Early records speak frequently of the mud.

    You can see the billboard at the intersection of Yarra Bank Highway and Queen’s Bridge St or explore the campaign online: https://www.apple.com/au/mac/behind-the-mac/

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