A photo of a road sign in the Australian outback has sparked debate online after an unknown graffitist scratched out the names of Alice Springs and Hermannsburg, replacing them with traditional Aboriginal names in white paint.
The sign, on Larapinta Drive in the Northern Territory, now reads “Mparntwe” and “Ntaria”, the traditionally recognised names of the sites to local Indigenous communities.
Just underneath are the letters ACAB, a common acronym for “All Cops Are Bastards” used by political groups around the world.
The sign’s new paint job earned instant attention online after a group named Common Ground Australia shared it with its 11,500 Facebook followers.
“Across Australia there is a growing movement of reclaiming traditional place names in First Nations languages,” the post reads.
“Using traditional place names in conversation, on signs and any other references is an amazing step towards recognising the sovereignty First Nations people still hold across Australia. When we recognise and embed language, we centre First Nations people, culture and Country.”
Across Australia there is a growing movement of reclaiming traditional place names in First Nations languages. This is…
“I love this, as it acknowledges how Western culture conveniently used the traditional greater landscape to fuel their expansion across the country,” commenter Vincent van Rijn said.
“Exactly how modern religious beliefs stole and integrated older thoughts to incorporate older cultures. As a sign of respect for original history these names should remain with their first identifications.”
But some weren’t as supportive, claiming the scratching out of Alice Springs was another example of cancel culture.
“More cancel culture, try and create a new narrative, progressives want to turn back the clock to a time that never existed,” one user said.
Others thought the paint job was vandalism.
The photo sparked calls for Australia to adapt a similar system to Wales and New Zealand, countries which have dual names on several road signs showing the traditional name and its English variant.
“I honestly think this should be done for all towns that have the colonial place names,” one person said.
The debate comes after a locality in New South Wales is one step closer to losing its “offensive” name, after a motion passed council to begin public consultations.
Lake Macquarie councillors discussed on Monday night whether to embark on a consultation process to rename Coon Island in Swansea, 25km south of Newcastle – and ultimately made the decision to proceed. The motion was to consult the community over the locality’s name change.
“We’ll now go out to community consultation – but it was put forward very clearly that the intention is to change the name,” Liberal councillor Kevin Baker told news.com.au, with the consultation process due to take place before September.
Councillor Baker, who proposed the motion, told news.com.au earlier last week that Coon Island and the neighbouring Coon Island Point were both named after Herbert Heaney who, in 1915, was the first recorded permanent resident on the island.
“I’m not some left winger, ‘PC gone mad’ type,” he said.
“This is a different situation to Coon cheese. Herbert Heaney was a white guy who worked in coal mines and would come out with coal dust on his face and got the nickname ‘coon’; it’s just not appropriate in this day and age.
“This name is very offensive to some in our community, has genuine racist connotations and I think there is a better way to represent the history of this island.”
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