CHANGING the City of Stirling’s name has been shot down as “not a priority” in front of a packed and lively public gallery.
A sometimes fiery public question time stretched out over an hour as people shared opposing, and sometimes confronting, viewpoints.
As Yokine youth worker Lorna Graham-Geraghty pleaded for the council to consider the cost to the Indigenous community of not changing the name, including their high suicide rates, the Voice’s observer was shocked by an aside from a women directly behind that it was “ridiculous” to make such a connection.
What came next underlined how sharply-defined the battle lines have become: if Indigenous people couldn’t handle the status quo, they deserved to die, the woman said soto voice.
The council sits on traditionally Mooro country and is currently named after WA governor and Pinjarra massacre leader James Stirling.
At May’s electors’ general meeting, electors Jeffrey Bullen and Mervyn Eades moved for a renaming to include and recognise the Noongar community.
Mr Bullen said behind the mayor’s seat, “two metres from a flag acknowledging our First Nation people hangs a portrait of a man, governor James Stirling, a man who led the Pinjarra massacre in October 1834, a now-undisputed historical fact where more than 50 unarmed men, women and children were slaughtered in just one day”.
Mr Eades likened it to naming a German suburb after Adolf Hitler.
But at the June 8 Council staff advised councillors to stick with the actions already in the updated Reconciliation Action Plan endorsed a week before the electors’ meeting, which doesn’t involve a name change.
The staff recommendation said “while the potential renaming of the City of Stirling has been a point of discussion amongst the current (and previous) RAP Working Group, it was not identified as a priority action or deliverable with the plan recently adopted by council”.
Cr Adam Spagnolo moved to reaffirm Stirling as the city’s name, getting support from councillors Felicity Farrelly, Suzanne Migdale, Karlo Perkov and Elizabeth Re.
Opposed to Stirling’s reaffirmation were mayor Mark Irwin and councillors David Boothman, Karen Caddy, Joe Ferrante, Chris Hatton, David Lagan, Stephanie Proud, Bianca Sandri, Keith Sargent and Lisa Thornton.
Former councillor Paul Collins has continued to keep an eye on proceedings and was dead against the name change, describing it as “grandstanding nonsense”.
He says they should’ve reaffirmed the Stirling name, and pondered if the majority vote against may signal future changes.
“In the city’s celebratory golden jubilee anniversary since its separation from the Shire of Perth in 1971, why couldn’t these councillors affirm the City of Stirling’s name under which they were elected?,” he queries.
“What are their intentions going forward?”
For now the only name changes scheduled in the RAP are to give council meeting rooms Noongar names in consultation with elders, and to add the traditional country name to the city’s postal address.
That’s in line with recent Australia Post guidelines, with the traditional country name sitting after the recipient’s name and before the street address.
by DAVID BELL and STEVE GRANT