Support for Indigenous division name

The Australian Electoral Commission has received 43 objections to plans to rename Russell Broadbent's electorate of McMillan. file photograph

The Australian Electoral Commission has received 43 objections to plans to rename Russell Broadbent's electorate of McMillan. file photograph

A direct descendant of a member of Angus McMillan's Highland Brigade responsible for the slaughter of many Gippsland Aboriginals has added her voice to calls for an Indigenous name for the federal division of McMillan.

Viki Sinclair of Mirboo North objected to the Australian Electoral Commission's proposal to rename McMillan to Monash as part of its statewide redistribution and renaming process.

Ms Sinclair said her great-great-great grandfather Colin McLaren was a member of the Highland Brigade.

In her submission, she said she now understood the "terrible history that is part of Gippsland" and the coming together of three Indigenous groups to propose the name, Bunjileene-Purrine, showed the gravity of the issue and the importance of the decision.

The Victorian redistribution and renaming proposed by the AEC attracted 413 objections and more than 10 per cent addressed the name choice for McMillan with more than half of those objections supporting the adoption of an Indigenous name.

The joint objection by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Bunurong Land Council and Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group said they were "happy that this stain [McMillan's name] has been removed from our federal seat ... however, [we are] very disappointed that the Aboriginal choice of name has not been selected".

They dismissed concerns about the length of Bunjileene-Purrine and noted the electorate of Carpentaria was equally long with five syllables. One supporter, Chris Grummet, said adopting an Indigenous name would "be part of writing a new chapter in our shared history by recognising the First Australians of Gippsland in a meaningful way".

Several objectors opposed the name Monash because it would cause geographic confusion with the City of Monash, Monash University and Monash Freeway, while a small number of objectors argued the name McMillan should not be changed and others suggested different names altogether.

Baw Baw Shire councillor and chair of the Baw Baw Shire place names advisory committee Keith Cook proposed the name of Sutcliffe, in recognition of pioneer, John Sutcliffe. Leon Zembekis urged the AEC to consider replacing the division names of Fraser and Monash with names honouring Indigenous people, Cooper or Wonga.

Mr Zembekis said William Cooper was an Indigenous activist who protested Nazism's oppression of the Jews of Kristallnacht in 1938 at a time when most of the international community was indifferent.

Also supporting Bunjileene-Purrine, Reconciliation Victoria noted that only nine of the 37 electoral divisions in Victoria had any connection to the traditional owners.

"The renaming could contribute to a new chapter in Australian society that acknowledges the diversity and complexity of building a shared Australian identity shaped by respect and recognition of Traditional Owners," Reconciliation Victoria said in its objection. Comments on the objections period close at 6pm on Friday, May 18 and will be available for viewing on the AEC website from Monday, May 21.

The electoral commission will meet in June to determine the final electoral divisions with announcements and a further objection period, if required, to follow in June or July.

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