News / Council

New city name approved by Governor

Merri-bek will be used as the replacement name for the City of Moreland from September 26

Mark Phillips
Thursday, September 15, 2022

MERRI-BEK will begin to be formally used as the new name for the City of Moreland from Monday, September 26 after it was approved by the Victorian Governor.

The official gazettal of the name on Thursday ends a tortuous process that began in November last year when the council was first alerted to the racist history of the Moreland name.

A community poll in June clearly favoured Merri-bek – which means ‘rocky ground’ – as the preferred choice of three Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung words put forward as options.

Councillors approved Merri-bek at a special meeting on July 2 and the final steps in the process were for Local Government Minister Melissa Horne and Governor Linda Dessau to rubber stamp the decision.

This has now happened with the change to Merri-bek announced in the Government Gazette.

“Changing the name of our city to Merri-bek is reconciliation in action with Traditional Owners,” said Moreland Mayor Mark Riley.

“I’m excited that we are close to formally introducing our new name.

“Now that the name is formally approved, we have started to get ready to use ‘Merri-bek City Council’ publicly.

“The community will start seeing Merri-bek in use later this month.”

 The council engaged in a re-naming process after it was presented with fresh evidence late last year showing how Moreland’s name derived from a Jamaican sugar plantation that used slave labour in the 18th and 19th century.

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.

The Moreland name is also now considered inextricably linked with the forced colonisation of traditional Indigenous lands.

Read more:

And the winner is … Merri-bek

A community poll found 59% of respondents favoured Merri-bek above the other two options, Jerrang, meaning ‘leaf of tree’, and Wa-dum-buk, which means ‘renew’. Six per cent of respondents voted against any name change.

But a group opposing the name change argued that because only 6315 people voted, or 3% of Moreland’s population, the consultation process was flawed.

They said there had been a lack of transparency about the name change and that the community had been denied proper input. More than 2000 people have signed an online petition calling for the renaming process to be restarted.

But the Deputy Chair of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Uncle Andrew Gardiner, said the council had shown respect to the community “by listening and understanding the negative history Moreland relates to in global slavery and racism and dispossession of traditional lands, not ceded, not sold and not given away”.

“It is not good enough to just brush the past under the carpet and forget about it,” he said.

“Moreland City Council have stood up for all their constituents and have learned from the past, so that all people are treated equally and creating a more inclusive and just society.

“With the gazettal of the new council name, today we take the first steps to a brighter future.”

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Reclaiming Moreland: Give Our Community a Say group said the approval of the new name was disappointing and that Ms Horne “has ignored the voice of the community and accepted the standard of a local government following poor governance and transparency”.

“It’s not surprising that our politicians are viewed so poorly when a process like this was driven by poor consultation, back room deals and a name which several Elders have stated is not even Woi-Wurrung language,” the group said.

“Our work has not ended as we are committed to share the truth about this project and to ensure that over the next 10 years ratepayers and residents are not paying for dodgy council decisions which go against the public they are meant to serve.”

The council has said previously that changes to signage and other branding from the renaming will cost $500,000 over two years.