Well-known Castlemaine Aboriginal rights activist Vic Say has spoken out in favour of place-naming measures to acknowledge the region’s Indigenous history.
Mr Say has been working to achieve greater appreciation of the region’s Indigenous history for years and said he was prompted to speak out by the recent public stand taken by Kyneton resident Harry Byass who raised concerns about the name of his own residential street, Hutton Street.
The street is named after Charles Hutton, a station owner in the early 1800s who was implicated in a massacre of Aboriginal people, and Mr Byass would like to see it renamed.
“I think what Harry has done is a gift because it has generated thoughtful discussion,” Mr Say said.
As a regular participant in Mount Alexander’s Indigenous Round Table, co-convened by Mount Alexander Shire’s mayor and Jaara Jaara elder Uncle Rick Nelson, Mr Say said discussions around dual naming of Mount Alexander (Leanganook) were continuing.
“We’ve asked the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation to research the accurate pronunciation and spelling and then we’ll recommend to the council to proceed with the dual naming of the mountain,” he said.
“Yandoit, Yapeen, Tarrengower, Baringhup…They’re all Dja Dja Wurrung words of local places and they don’t exist anywhere else in the world.
“To have that uniquely local flavour and rhythm to the language is wonderful and I’d hate it not to be treasured and retained where we can.”
While not advocating for the removal of European place names like Hutton or Parker “because they’ve also played a part in our history”, Mr Say is among those keen to see more dual naming or other visible recognition of an Indigenous past.
“Whether it’s dual naming or a plaque or noticeboard that tells the history,” he said, pointing also to current moves to have Dja Dja Wurrung traditional land ownership recognised on signage at entrances to Mount Alexander Shire.
Mr Say told the Express the issue of acknowledging Aboriginal place names was by no means a new one for the region and by way of illustration he provided a poem to demonstrate the issue had its passionate local advocates as far back as the 1850s.
Entitled Nightfall on the Central Highlands, the poem was penned by an unidentified poet and published in the Daylesford Press in 1856.
Nightfall on the Central Highlands
Once, I in fancy, walked along
Beside a dark Jajowurrong
Who, on a summer evening cool,
Strode on to Lar-ne-barramul.
There to the mountain-tops he took
To Moorootah and Lalgambook,
Where to the west his eyes took wing
To Kobratang (or Koorootyng.)
Still further west, he saw the while,
The rounded dome of Moorookyle –
Then northward where blue ranges tower,
Surmounted by bold Tarrengower.
North-eastward over hill and brook
He could descry Leanganook
(Which Mitchell to his lasting shame,
Called by a Grecian monarch’s name).
He saw the heights of Terrawait
Through eastern ranges penetrate;
He saw the darkening forest throng
The lifted head of Myrniong.
By faith alone, beyond the gloom,
He saw two other mountains loom.
Bold Buningyong lay there asleep
Watched by the mighty Warrenheip.
The darkness blotted out the view
Until the day should dawn anew.
But hidden by eternal night
Our dusky friend goes out of sight
His people long have ceased to roam
The forest of their inland home.
And those who came – for wealth and fame,
Too often scorned the native name.
Will those who cherish things of yore
Those ancient names again restore?
Lest all forget, will YOU make sure
That their rich cadences endure?