EVERY seven years, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) reconsiders the electoral boundaries and that time is coming this December.
The McMillan electorate, from Port Welshpool to Wonthaggi to Noojee, could also be called something else if the Bass Coast and South Gippsland Reconciliation Group has its way.
Members don’t care about the boundaries, but say it’s the only time the AEC will consider changing the name of an electorate.
The area was named after Angus McMillan, who reportedly massacred Aboriginal men, women and children in the 1840s.
“It was happening a lot, Aboriginal people were almost wiped out from disease and killings,” said Bass Coast and South Gippsland Reconciliation Group secretary Marg Lynn.
“He tended to rehabilitate in the eyes of the public, but he was responsible for a very significant number of deaths of Aboriginal people, into the hundreds.”
In the 1840s, Europeans and Aborigines were fighting over land, Europeans wanting to use it to graze and grow crops.
“He was later regarded as a worthy gentleman when there was a very strong Nationalist movement in Australia,” she said.
The campaign to change the name of the McMillan electorate isn’t a new one either, reconciliation groups lobbied in 2002 for the change.
Ms Lynn says times have changed.
“People are willing to hear the stories of Aboriginal people after European settlement and if they see the evidence, they’ll see that it was awful and we need to do something about it. It happened so long ago, but they still killed people. They hid it. But they knew what they were doing was morally and legally wrong.”
It’s also been on McMillan MP Russell Broadbent’s agenda and last year he wrote to the AEC asking for the name of his electorate to be changed.
But what should the name be changed to? Ms Lynn says, “We don’t have the answers, we don’t have names.”
The Bass Coast and South Gippsland Reconciliation Group hopes names will be suggested in the coming months, before the process begins in December or January to consider realigning boundaries.
“If possible, it should be a choice for the Aboriginal community, who’ve lived under this awful name for so long.
“Consensus takes time in Aboriginal communities. Most importantly, we don’t want it named after another dead white male.”
The redistribution process must begin in either late December, 2017 or in January, 2018.
“The AEC will call for submissions for the redistribution of boundaries for the seat of McMillan,” Ms Lynn said.
“We’re not interested in the boundaries, just the name. The population has grown at the western end in Pakenham so there’s bound to be changes, but we don’t know how that will play out.”
The redistribution process could begin earlier if there’s a significant population change between Australia’s states and territories.