Categorized | Inner Perth

Nyungar leaders pan royal names


The choice of royal names for the massive Perth Waterfront and City Link projects has been panned by Nyungar leaders who say local Aboriginal names should have been used instead.

In May, Premier Colin Barnett named the waterfront project ‘Elizabeth Quay’ after Queen Elizabeth II who had visited Perth in 2011 for the much-hyped Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

On the other side of the CBD at the Perth City Link project, two major components – King’s Square and Queen’s Square – also derive their names from the British monarchy.

The director of Curtin University’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Simon Forrest, says the names are a missed opportunity for reconciliation and for promoting a truly local identity.

“It would have been an ideal opportunity to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and give residents the chance to learn about local language and culture,” Associate Professor Forrest said.

“It seems to be encouraging a colonial mentality with names focusing on royals.

“It stops us developing our own local identity when we keep turning to foreign monarchs for our place names.”

Associate Professor Forrest said it was not out of disrespect for the queen that he disagreed with the names.

“It would simply be a chance to pick up the pieces and give indigenous people a sense of identity in the city,” he said.

“Although many people may dismiss it as ‘just a name’ it holds special significance, particularly if those names represent a domineering time in Australian history.

“What you are seeing in places like Africa is a shift to names with a local touch.

“No-one is turning to the United Kingdom or France for their identities.”

The trend is taking off elsewhere in Perth – in the City of Vincent – where a plan was this year hatched to co-badge Weld Square as ‘Wongi Park’.

Nyungar elder Richard Wilkes says the Waterfront and link projects should have celebrated the original Nyungar names for their areas, or been named after Nyungar people who were prominent at the time of colonisation.

“The government needs to give recognition to the natives of this area,” Mr Wilkes said.

“We don’t see the royal place names as appropriate to this area.

“There’s no shortage of Nyungar names that reflect the original culture of this land.”

Mr Wilkes took time out to give a lesson in Nyungar geography.

“Where Elizabeth Quay is going in, that is what we call ‘Gabbee Darbal’,” he said.

‘Gabbee Darbal’ loosely translates to ‘fresh water’, and Elizabeth Quay is near where the first colonists found fresh water in central Perth.

Mr Wilkes said the Nyungar name of the adjacent area around Barrack Street Jetty is ‘Kooyamulyup’.

‘Koolya’ refers to the sound of a “big-nosed frog with green and brown markings over their bodies” that was once common in the area. ‘Mulyup’ means that when the frog croaks it “puts its nose in the air”.

Mr Wilkes said the area around the Perth City Link has, since time immemorial, been known as ‘Goodbroo’.

“It must be a good place, that’s all I can say,” he quipped when asked the meaning of that name.

On announcing the Elizabeth Quay name in May, Mr Barnett said it would be a fitting tribute to the queen’s CHOGM visit.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority – which is in charge of the Quay and Link projects – said the King’s Square and Queen’s Square names were chosen because of the Link’s proximity to King and Queen Street in the CBD.

“The names were selected based on the streets which will meet the new squares in the master plan,” the spokeswoman said.

“It is obviously still in the early development phases and the names are subject to change as development proceeds.”

Despite this, the MRA website, and billboards surrounding the Link project heavily promote the King’s Square and Queen’s Square names.

** The spelling of ‘Nyungar’ used here is the spelling Mr Wilkes prefers. **

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