Three Lake Macquarie councilors are fighting the name change of Pirrita Island, saying the community doesn’t want it.
In a recent survey, 56% of 2120 responses wished to leave the name as Coon Island but council moved a motion to change the name on Monday this week. Councilors Jason Pauling, John Gilbert and Colin Grigg say the community has been ignored.
“Council went to the community, asked them what they thought, and then effectively thumbed their nose at the response they got,” Jason Pauling said on Friday.
“My primary concern is, when this all started I made reference that this looked like it would be a sham-consultation and council had already made up its mind, and the results of this survey being disregarded would appear to support that,” he said.
But according to other members on council and community groups, the name change isn’t about playing politics but changing something which people find offensive.
Councilor Kevin Baker says the name has been hurting people in that community for a significant amount of time.
“It really is a name that has racist connotations, the name comes from one of the original people who lived on the island, who had the name simply because he came out of the coal mines with black dust on his face,” councilor Baker said.
“Its time that we moved on from this name that does hurt members of our community and move to a more inclusive name that does recognise the history of the island.”
When you combine the feedback from the community as well as the genuine engagement that went on with the key stakeholders and the family group, the feedback overwhelmingly showed there was need for change,” he said.
Bahtabah Aboriginal Land Council said in a statement that they considered the term as derogatory.
However, councilor Pauling says “the history books say that he looked like a racoon,”
“I know this whole argument but even the history books that say ‘he was named because he had a black face,’ they don’t say anything further than that,” he explained.
“There is no direct link to that being a racial slur,”
“That’s where the community is,”
“It’s not based on racism, they’re trying to hold onto their memories and they feel that they haven’t been appropriately consulted,” he finished.