Australia’s Blacktown debates name change

According to some historians, the Sydney, Australia suburb of Blacktown earned its name from Black Town Road, the route leading to an institute where Aboriginal children were forcibly sent to so-called “Native Institute” for “education”. For this reason, many feel that the name is a painful reminder of Australian segregationist past and should therefore be changed. Some of the suggested onomastic replacements include the indigenous names Bungarribee and Nurrangingy.

While some residents have applauded the proposed name change, strong resistance has come from some of the leading members of the local Aboriginal community. For example, Gordon Workman, chair of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation has asserted that the removal of the name Black is in and of itself racist. In a interview provided to the Sydney Morning Herald, Workman stated that the toponym Blacktown “goes back 100 odd years to where the Darug people were here”. In his opinion, erasing the name would dishonor that history.

Independent councilor Russell Dickens, who has been campaigning for a name change for twenty years, explains that his reason for wanting to do away with the moniker is simply that the color name Black is negative.

As these conflicting opinions demonstrate, this onomastic battle is far from a simple black-n-white issue; it will probably take quite some time before a satisfactory solution is reached.

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