The Gunnaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, the Bunurong Land Council and Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group have been working together on the campaign to remove the name of McMillan from the federal electorate. We are very pleased to have achieved this outcome, and are now amplifying our efforts to have an Aboriginal choice of name to replace McMillan.
We have submitted the following objection to the Australian Electoral Commission, the third in the process of submissions, and, as you see, we are asking again for the name Bunjillene-Purrine to be the replacement, or for the Gunnaikurnai-Bunurong Naming Committee to be recalled to provide a name that meets AEC requirements.
The Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Bunurong Land Council and Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group thanks the AEC for taking the decision to remove the name of McMillan from the electorate.
It was notable that the volume of opposition to his name was considerable, with 27 initial submissions uniquely dedicated to McMillan, mostly protesting the name on the grounds of McMillan’s murderous behaviour towards Aboriginal People. We are happy that this stain has been removed from our federal seat.
As representatives of the traditional owners of much of Gippsland we are however very disappointed that the Aboriginal choice of name has not been selected.
This is not to diminish the worth of Sir John Monash who is an outstanding candidate for honours, and is associated with Gippsland through his founding the State Electricity Commission nearly 100 years ago. Monash is a revered figure to many Australians, and has thus been appropriately recognised already with the naming of a University, a scholarship, a hospital, a freeway, a municipality, and now the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, and, inappropriately, in a new political forum! While confusion may be created in whether a new Monash civic centre is in Glen Waverley or in Moe, that is not really our concern.
Our concern at the overlooking of the Aboriginal name is two-fold. First, that the enduring trauma associated with McMillan that has been imposed on Aboriginal People deserves recognition and a just response. Secondly, that the collaborative and truly representative process undertaken by Gunnaikurnai and Bunurong People to find a name was an act of reconciliation offered to the Gippsland community, and has been declined.
We are also confused that the naming criteria indicate a desire to consider an Aboriginal name and yet the AEC has not contacted us to discuss the proposal.
As the Redistribution Committee Report is silent on its reasons, we do not know if the committee is satisfied that the removal of the name is sufficient change, or whether the choice of name is problematic.
While the length of ‘Bunjileene-Purrine’ may pose a difficulty, we observe that the electorate of Carpentaria is equally long, with five syllables. If there is concern that the biographical detail is very brief, that is inevitable under the circumstances. McMillan and his colleagues did not record the life of those they captured or murdered. Purrine was known as a mighty warrior but lived before European entry to the land and therefore knowledge was orally and scantily preserved. If Monash was a pre-determined choice then we express our further disappointment with the process and the game we have been encouraged to play.
We would ask that the Gunnaikurnai-Bunurong Naming Committee be requested to reconvene and negotiate an Aboriginal name that will meet criteria as articulated by the AEC.
Roger Fenwick, Dan Turnbull, Dr Marg Lynn CEO, GLaWAC CEO, BLC Secretary, BCSGRG.