News / Council

Choice of three for Moreland’s new name

Council expects to finalise renaming of the city by July following community consultation

A bark scroll bearing the three proposed names which was presented to Mayor Mark Riley on Saturday. Photo: Moreland City Council

Mark Phillips
Saturday, May 14, 2022

MORELAND residents will be able to have their say from Monday on which of three Indigenous words they want as the city’s new name.

The shortlist was released at a special council meeting at the municipal centre in Coburg on Saturday, where a bark scroll bearing the three names was handed over from representatives of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung community to Mayor Mark Riley.

Elders have put forward three words in Woi-wurrung language for the community to consider: 

  Wa-dam-buk, meaning renew.
  Merri-bek, meaning rocky country.
  Jerrang, meaning leaf of tree.

But in a sign of divisions on the council, three of the 10 councillors present on Saturday voted against continuing with the renaming process.

Cr Riley said any of the three choices would be a name the whole community can be proud of.

“Renaming our council is a small but significant step we can take to right the wrongs of the past, and come together to walk a path of reconciliation,” he said.

“Each of these names has rich ties with this area we call home, deepening our connection with our cultural history, land and environment.”

The names were released following a cultural ceremony which included a Welcome to Country, Cleansing Ceremony and Scroll Handover. Council buildings were cleansed in a smoking ceremony to address past injustices and signify a step forward together in reconciliation.

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Moreland residents, ratepayers and business owners will have until June 20 to choose which name they prefer, with a final decision to be made at a special council meeting in July. The preferred name will then be submitted to the Minister for Local Government, Shaun Leane, for approval.

The council voted 6-3 in December to change the city’s name following the emergence of new evidence showing how Moreland’s name derived from a Jamaican sugar plantation that used slave labour in the 18th and 19th century.

A Djirri Djirri dance performance at Saturday’s ceremony. Photo: Moreland City Council

A European settler, Farquhar McCrae, gained possession of a large area of land between Moonee Ponds Creek and Sydney Road in 1839 and named it Moreland in homage to the Jamaican slave estate that had been managed by his family.

The land was sold without the permission of its traditional owners, who had been forcibly removed.

The slavery connections had been publicly known when the Kennett Government adopted the name Moreland for the new municipality formed from the amalgamation of the cities of Brunswick and Coburg in 1994. But over the subsequent decades, the links had been forgotten and current councillors said they were unaware of the origins of the name.

Uncle Andrew Gardiner, deputy chair of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, said proceeding with the name change demonstrated the council’s commitment to reconciliation.

“With the name Moreland now associated with the slave trade in Jamaica and purposeful dispossession of traditional land from our ancestors, the changing of the name is a step forward today for council to right the wrongs of the past and staying true to its Statement of Commitment to Reconciliation with first peoples, and to maintain a multicultural and diverse community,” he said.

“Ratepayers and residents can be proud of the council, and we greatly appreciate the respect they have shown us to honour their promise.”

But support for the shortlist and continuation of the renaming process was not unanimous with councillors Oscar Yildiz, Helen Davidson and Helen Pavlidis – none of whom attended the cultural ceremony or the council meeting in person – voting against it.

“Many members of the community have informed us they are of the view that there should be no name change,” said Cr Pavlidis.

“If we are one community, proudly diverse, and genuinely seeking feedback from our community, then surely all ratepayers, residents, business owners and other members of our community must be invited to share their feedback options on the name change including the option of no name change for this municipality.”

In a short address to the council, Uncle Andrew Gardiner urged the dissenting councillors to reflect community support for diversity, reconciliation and multiculturalism.

“This isn’t 10 years ago when Tony Abbott used to just say no to everything,” he said. “This is a time when you need to stand up and be counted.”

The council has allocated $500,000 over two years the costs of the renaming, which will mean digital platforms, signs at significant buildings and facilities, and municipal entry signs. 

It believes all other changes, such as street signs, can be met at no extra cost through normal upgrades.

Read more:

Slavery connection ‘was well known’ in 1990s