Racist place names to be struck from the record in Queensland
Racist place names from Queensland’s colonial past will finally be wiped off the map.
But many would be surprised that appallingly racist names such as “Nigger Creek” still existed in 2017.
In May, following community concern about the place name “Niggers Bounce” in north Queensland, the Natural Resources and Mines Department removed references to the name from its databases.
Fairfax Media can reveal the department then commenced a proactive review of the place names database and found nine other place names that had a “similarly offensive term”.
On August 14, the department discontinued those place names – Mount Nigger, Nigger Head and seven instances of Nigger Creek.
The decisions will be published in the Queensland Government Gazette in late September.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said he was glad the department recognised the deeply offensive, derogatory term caused pain to Indigenous Australians and other minorities of African descent.
“We welcome the removal of those names, since the N-word is an unmistakably racial slur, and a potent symbol of slavery, white supremacy and violence,” Dr Abramovich said.
“It is rooted in hate, and has often been employed to dehumanise and to perpetuate demeaning stereotypes.
“This decision recognises that this insulting word of contempt can’t be sanitised, excused or cleansed, and the relegation of these names to the dustbin will hopefully teach present and future generations that it is never acceptable, in any context, to use these phrases.”
Dr Abramovich said in the 21st century, no town or place should display or be associated with any symbol of vilification, bloodshed or humiliation of a particular group.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga has previously supported moves to return traditional names to Mount Jim Crow, believed to refer to US racial segregation laws, and Mount Wheeler, which some believe is named after a police officer responsible for the deaths of Indigenous people.
Other Queensland place names still reflect a violent history, including Murdering Creek, Skull Hole and The Leap.
University of Queensland research fellow Jonathan Richards said it was important to bring history up to date and make it inclusive and respectful of Indigenous experiences.
“Some ‘pioneers’ killed many people,” he said.
“The broader community needs to learn more about our true history – not the ‘whitewashed versions’ – because as long as memorials to frontier ‘heroes’ remain place and uncorrected, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are constantly reminded of the cruel and violent racism of Australia’s past.”
It comes as debate rages over statues, including an inscription claiming Captain James Cook discovered Australia and controversy in the US over statues commemorating figures such as Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee.
Statues of Captain Cook and former governor Lachlan Macquarie in Sydney were vandalised at the weekend, with the words “Change the date” and “No pride in genocide”.
There have also been calls to include a plaque alongside a Townsville statue of Robert Towns, who was responsible for “blackbirding” South Sea Islanders.
A decade ago, then-premier Peter Beattie said if anyone was offended by place names they should apply to the Natural Resources Department to have them changed.
Activist Stephen Hagan waged a long campaign to have the “E.S. Nigger Brown Stand” sign removed from the in Toowoomba Sports Ground, which has been redeveloped into the Clive Berghofer Stadium.
The sign was removed in 2008 ahead of the stadium’s demolition.
A Natural Resources and Mines Department spokesman said because the nine discontinued place names were shown on historical maps and plans, historical records of the names and their discontinuance were retained in the Queensland Place Names Register.
The department considers place name submissions from councils, community groups and the public.
“Appropriate submissions are developed into formal proposals that are put out for public consultation, which includes seeking feedback from local councils, utility and emergency services providers, local members of Parliament, community groups and traditional owners,” the spokesman said.