World

Refusal to change Stirling name a ‘show of whiteness’

The Dreamtime AFL game at Optus Stadium was hailed as a watershed reconciliation moment for WA but a Noongar activist has labelled it “tokenism”, saying the “reality” of reconciliation in this State was a “show of whiteness” by the City of Stirling this week.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, the City of Stirling announced that it would not be changing its name, which is derived from Captain James Stirling, the first Governor of WA.

Coolbinia resident Jeff Bullen proposed changing the council’s name at the city’s electors general meeting in May to be more inclusive of First Nations people.

Mr Bullen labelled Captain James Stirling — the city’s namesake — a “mass murderer” for leading soldiers and police in the 1834 Pinjarra massacre, WA’s bloodiest Aboriginal slaughter.

Early on the morning of October 28,1834, Stirling and 24 troops cornered about 80 men, women and children in their camp on the river and opened fire from both banks.

Camera IconMichael Long walks arm-in-arm with Premier Mark McGowan during the Long Walk before the Dreamtime game at Optus Stadium last weekend. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Mervyn Eades said the council’s decision showed “complete disregard for what Captain James Stirling had done to my First Nations people”.

“What happened … was a show of whiteness, it was truly sad,” Mr Eades told The West Live.

Councillor Adam Spagnolo opened Tuesday’s council meeting by reading out a petition signed by an unknown number of “verified” signatures opposing the proposed name change.

The petition was met with applause from the public gallery of Stirling’s council chambers.

It was a very different scene compared to the Long Walk event before the Dreamtime game, which saw thousands of West Aussies show support for Indigenous culture.

Jeff Bullen moved a motion the City of Stirling to change its name.
Camera IconJeff Bullen moved a motion the City of Stirling to change its name. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

However, Mr Eades said such gestures were “tokenism” while meaningful change still eluded Indigenous people.

“There’s stuff that our people experience on a day-to-day basis that is the total opposite to what everyone pretends they are doing and being for our people,” he said.

Mr Eades said indigenous people would “continue to call out” the City of Stirling until a name change happened and, until then, any reconciliation plan the council came up with would be worthless.

“Captain Stirling was a monster and if Stirling shire wants to keep that name, and that little picture of him hanging in the back corner (of council chambers) alongside of the aboriginal flag, then their reconciliation plan needs to be chucked in the bin,” he said.

Listen to the full interview on The West Live link above.

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