Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why Niggerhead Rock and Suicide Bay need Tasmanian Aboriginal names


By Rhiannon Shine

Suicide Bay and Victory Hill are Tasmanian places with bloody histories and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) wants them replaced with Aboriginal words in the spirit of reconciliation.
The TAC has chosen 11 new names in palawa kani, the revived Tasmanian Aboriginal language, as dual and replacement names for sites around the state, under a proposal being put to the state's Nomenclature Board.
On February 10, 1828, about 30 Aboriginal men were massacred near Cape Grim in the state's north-west, adjacent to two small islands called the Doughboys.
TAC Aboriginal linguistic consultant Theresa Sainty said Suicide Bay and Victory Hill near Cape Grim had highly offensive names which needed to be changed.
"Victory Hill was called [that] by workers of the Van Diemen's Land Company which was granted quite a substantial amount of land," she said.
"The workers that were celebrating the killings of Aborigines somewhere around that hill called it 'Victory Hill'.
"The English place name refers to atrocities perpetrated on our people by white people. You could look at it almost as a celebration of the killings of Aborigines.
"Naturally that is offensive to me as an Aboriginal person and to my community and that is why we would like to see that changed."
The TAC has proposed the name be changed to timuk, the site's original place word, according to historical evidence.
"[George Augustus] Robinson (the unofficial Government-Aboriginal conciliator) was told that name, timuk, on February 19 in 1834," Ms Sainty said.
The TAC wants the name of Suicide Bay changed to luwuka.
"Luwuka is an original place word for that area," Ms Sainty said.
"Suicide Bay is the area where the massacre of people back in 1828 occurred off the cliffs at Suicide Bay.
"Some of our people actually refer to that place as 'Murder Bay', obviously we want that renamed luwuka to get rid of any inference that the massacre of our people at that place was anything else.
"In the past it has been passed off as one of the largest mass suicides of Aboriginal people. Clearly it was not."

Niggerhead Rock 'pretty damn offensive'

Ms Sainty said while she did not know the story behind Niggerhead Rock, the reason it needed to be changed was obvious.

"I think that speaks for itself, and if it doesn't, we are in a lot of trouble," she said.
"Our people continue to go mutton-birding on titima (Trefoil Island, where the rock is located) every year, so that is pretty damn offensive having a place word such as that one.
"Karanutung is what we would like to see that place name changed to."
Tasmanian toponymist Wayne Smith said Niggerhead Rock was understood to have been given its name because of its resemblance to a black person's head.
"I can understand why people would want to change that," he said.
The TAC has also proposed dual names for three sites at the north-west point of Tasmania: pilri for Cape Grim, ranamitim for the Doughboys and layrimanuk for Woolnorth Point.

Previously unnamed sites to get Aboriginal names

The TAC has chosen three names for unnamed sites in the north-west: taynayuwa for "the location of the Cape Grim massacre", nakali for a cave opposite the Doughboys, and ranapim taynamun for land opposite Victory Hill.
Palawa kani words for two unnamed Tasmanian waterfalls have also been selected: turikina truwala for one in the foothills of kunanyi, or Mount Wellington, in Hobart (which translates to "waterfall mountain") and luyni mungalina ("rock raining") for another in Launceston's Punchbowl Reserve.
Ms Sainty said it was important for the wider community to use original place words.
"It is the same as Uluru now being known by most people as Uluru and not [Ayers Rock]," she said.
"It just can't happen quickly enough for us, it is in the spirit of reconciliation, it is acknowledging that there were people here before white people invaded and we are still here."
Palawa kani language program co-ordinator Annie Reynolds said the TAC had carried out extensive consultation with the Aboriginal community, local councils and government representatives about the 11 proposed names.
This included a cultural camp to pilri, or Cape Grim, where about 60 Aboriginal people attended each site and spoke their traditional names.
"We will submit the 11 names formally to the Nomenclature Board in late June for them to consider at their July meeting," she said.
"For the last two batches of names that we proposed the process for the Nomenclature Board took about 12 months for each batch, so we expect it to be a long process again. We don't really quite understand why it takes so long."
Ms Reynolds said it was the first time the TAC had proposed changing offensive names using a provision in the Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy 2012.
"It will be interesting to see how that goes because it would be hard to see how anybody could say Niggerhead Rock is acceptable in this day and age, or even Suicide Bay and Victory Hill, given the events that happened there," she said.
"The other provision of the Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy that we have not called on before is the one that gives outright preference for Aboriginal names for an unnamed geographic feature."
To date, 13 places are assigned under the Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy 2012.

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