Moreland council votes to change name to Merri-bek, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘rocky country’

Moreland Council in north Melbourne voted to change its name to Merri-bek following a community inquiry to find a replacement for the current slavery-related name.

In consultation with Wurundjeri elders, the council put three Woi-wurrung names in a survey of residents.

An overwhelming majority of the 6,315 votes went to Merri-bek, which means “rocky country”.

Deputy Mayor Lambros Tapinos said it was a historic day for the council and the region.

“It’s the reintroduction of a name that has existed here for thousands and thousands of years.

“It is a name that more accurately describes the land on which this municipality is located and its mother tongue.”

The council worked with the Wurundjeri community on the name change.(Provided)

Wurundjeri elder Bill Nicholson welcomed the name change.

“For me, it’s a great starting point to move forward,” he said.

“So congratulations to the council and thank you for the opportunity to share our culture and our language.”

Wurundjeri elder Tony Garvey said it was a “huge step forward” for indigenous people.

“I think this is the start of something big,” he said.

“Remember that if you are on Aboriginal sites it is important that we try to stick to traditional customs and names.”

The state government named the council Moreland in 1994 when Brunswick, Coburg and part of the Broadmeadows council areas merged.

The area was originally named Moreland in 1839 by land speculator Farquhar McCrae, who named it after a Jamaican slave plantation run by his father and grandfather.

Some councilors criticize the consultation process

Councilors Oscar Yildiz, Helen Davidson and Helen Pavlides-Mihalakos voted against the motion, while the other seven councilors present voted for the motion.

Mr Yildiz said there was not enough community consultation on the change.

A chart showing survey results for a new council name
Of the 6,315 council residents who responded to the poll, 3,739 voted for Merri-bek.(Provided: Moreland City Council)

He said there should have been a fourth option in the investigation to leave the Moreland name.

A few other councilors acknowledged that some residents opposed the name change.

Councilor Sue Bolton said there should be more community education to help residents understand Indigenous land dispossession and intergenerational trauma.

“I hope the council will go further in trying to help people understand why this is so important,” she said.

Ms Pavlides-Mihalakos said the money that will be spent on the name change could be better spent elsewhere.

“Who will pay for this cost? We, the ratepayers of Moreland,” she said.

The council allocated $500,000 over two years to change the panels and materials.

The change will now need to be approved by Local Government Minister Melissa Horne and Victoria Governor Linda Dessau.

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