‘A name we can all be proud of’: Moreland Council unveils proposed names

Key points

  • The council is changing its name after voting in favour of a motion to drop the Moreland title, which is derived from a Jamaican sugar plantation that used slave labour.
  • The shortlist of proposed names features words and phrases from the Woi Wurrung language, traditionally spoken by the First Nations people of central Victoria.
  • They include Wa-dam-buk, meaning “renew”, Merri-bek, meaning “rocky country”, and Jerrang, meaning “leaf of tree”.

Moreland City Council will select one of three Indigenous names unveiled this weekend to replace its current title.

The council is changing its name after voting in favour of a motion to drop the Moreland title, which is derived from a Jamaican sugar plantation that used slave labour.

The shortlist of proposed names, which was handed to the council on a piece of bark on Saturday, features words and phrases from the Woi Wurrung language, traditionally spoken by the First Nations people of central Victoria.

They include Wa-dam-buk, meaning “renew”, Merri-bek, meaning “rocky country”, and Jerrang, meaning “leaf of tree”.

The bark featuring three proposed names for Moreland City Council.Credit:First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria

“They reflect the significance of Country and culture as well as honour the opportunity this name change represents as part of the reconciliation and healing journey,” Moreland City Council wrote on their Facebook page.

After a traditional cleansing ceremony at Coburg Town Hall, Greens mayor Mark Riley and Andrew Gardiner, deputy chair of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, unveiled the proposed new names.

Gardiner emphasised the importance of the day for the Aboriginal community in Moreland to “go forward and reunite with everyone in Australia”.

“We’ve been naming streets and parks for a little while now,” Gardiner said. “To be actually naming councils [away] from racism – the Moreland name as we know is a slavery name from overseas – it’s a big step forward for us to stamp out racism.”

Moreland City Council will change its name after discovering links to a Jamaican slave plantation.Credit:Jason South

Riley echoed Gardiner’s sentiments, saying it was “an opportunity to give this multicultural community a name we can all be proud of, and begin to make right the wrong of European settlement”.

A motion to change the council’s name before the end of 2022 was passed six votes to three last year after a delegation informed Riley and Moreland’s chief executive Cathy Henderson of the name’s disturbing history.

Moreland was the name of a Jamaican sugar plantation owned by the family of Scotsman Farquhar McCrae, which had as many as 700 slaves at any one time in the decades after it was founded in the 1780s.

McCrae arrived in Melbourne in 1839 and after dispossessing the Indigenous owners of a parcel of land he bought stretching from Moonee Ponds Creek to Sydney Road he gave it the name of Moreland after his family’s estate. Britain had made slavery illegal in 1833.

The Moreland name – also used on a prominent road in Melbourne’s inner-north – was assigned to the council in 1994 as part of the Kennett government’s amalgamations. The area includes the suburbs of Brunswick, Coburg and Pascoe Vale.

Over the next month, the three proposed names will be discussed with residents and each name’s meaning carefully explained to help inform their choice, Riley said.

A senior Indigenous figure, Gary Murray, said that his preference was Merri-bek because it connotes strength.

“I’ve always believed that it’s one blood, one globe. We’re all human beings, we all have human rights, and we’ve got to protect those. This process that was started by the City of Moreland and the Wurundjeri First Nations group is pretty powerful.”

It is expected that a name will be officially chosen by July after local residents and Indigenous community members voice their opinions either online or through the post.

The council said assets such as street and park signs, rubbish bins and staff uniforms would be changed incrementally within existing budget allocations “and asset renewal programs over a 10-year time frame”.

Between $250,000 and $500,000 has been set aside each year for two financial years to make the changes.

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