Indigenous name missed opportunity for McMillan

Moe is in the seat of McMillan. file photograph

Moe is in the seat of McMillan. file photograph

Local Indigenous community members would prefer the federal seat of McMillan be changed to an Aboriginal name, rather than to the name of Monash.

The Australian Electoral Commission last week recommended changing the name to Monash, as part of several electoral boundary changes.

The AEC had received community feedback to change the name after concerns about explorer Angus McMillan's role in leading the mass slaughter of Gippsland Indigenous people in the 1800s.

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Roger Fenwick said he was pleased the AEC had taken on board the name change, but was disappointed it hadn't picked a local Indigenous name.

"I am in conversation with elders and directors about how they feel about this decision. We are disappointed that the opportunity for an Indigenous name was not taken up," Mr Fenwick said.

"We are pleased the name has been recommended for change, but we are interested why they chose this one and not an Aboriginal name."

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation had put in a submission to name the seat Bunjileene-Purrine, after two significant ancestral Indigenous leaders.

The AEC received a raft of other suggestions, including Gunai/Kurnai, Warrigal and Rose, as well as pioneer names Howitt, Bennett and Anderson.

Gunai man Colin Thomas was also involved in discussions for a name change.

He had suggested naming the seat after Gunai Kurnai World War I medal recipient Henry Thorpe, or after local Indigenous civil rights activist Laurie Moffatt.

Uncle Colin said he believed Sir John Monash already had enough recognition in Australian society, with a university named in his honour.

"I don't see why a seat here in Gippsland can't be named after an Aboriginal person. We talk about reconciliation, let them step up to the mark and prove they want reconciliation," Uncle Colin said.

"We've had to sit here and have the name McMillian all these years, knowing what he did to us. Whereas Henry Thorpe went overseas and lost his life for all Australians, he paid the ultimate price."

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