The time has come for the electorate of McMillan to gain a new name.
An opportunity occurs every seven years for the community to comment on the boundaries of the electorate that might need to be changed to stay within the required population range.
More importantly in Gippsland, we have the opportunity to rid ourselves of the name of a murderer.
Angus McMillan was responsible for the massacres of hundreds of men, women and children in the 1840s, significantly contributing to the near annihilation of the Gunnaikurnai people in little more than a decade.
His intent was to clear the land for his (and the colony’s) pastoral ambitions, and the Aboriginal people were ‘in the way’. There is evidence from diaries, newspapers and letters that these massacres occurred.
Professor Lyndall Ryan from the University of Newcastle has this year published a map of the massacres that took place in eastern Australia between 1788 and 1872, with irrefutable evidence of McMillan’s leadership of four massacres amounting to 200 to 300 killings. Peter Gardner provides evidence of greater McMillan involvement.
The Gunnaikurnai people understandably loathe the notion of McMillan and living within an electorate named after him.
And at last we, non-Aboriginal people, have come to realise that names do matter.
The Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group believes it is offensive and unworthy of a fair-minded community to retain this name now that we understand what he did. McMillan has brought dishonour and shame to our community.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has called for submissions, due in by 6pm on November 17, commenting on the boundaries or the naming of the electorate.
The Reconciliation Group and many people and organisations we have talked to are making submissions.
We argue that the name of McMillan should be expunged from the federal electorate.
Further, we argue that the name to replace McMillan should be chosen by the Aboriginal communities who carry the legacy of his atrocities and those whose land the electorate occupies, the Gunnaikurnai and the Bunurong people.
Through the leadership of key Aboriginal organisations forming a broadly representative naming committee, the Aboriginal community will deliberate and consult and find a mutually agreed name as soon as it can, and will recommend this name to the AEC at a later, comments stage of the redistribution process.
The move to change the name has bi-partisan support. The electorate’s sitting member Russell Broadbent has advocated it for years, and at last the tide of public opinion is turning sufficiently for the change to be effected.
You can make a brief or longer submission to the AEC and can find the place to do it at: https://formupload.aec.gov.au/Form?FormId=vicredistribution
We would urge you to commend the process of the naming committee being given naming rights.
Dr Margaret Lynn, secretary, Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group.