Working towards further reconciliation:dual names project step in right direction

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
Part of the Kinjarling display at the Museum of the Great Southern.
Camera IconPart of the Kinjarling display at the Museum of the Great Southern. Credit: Laurie Benson

Kia, Kia. Welcome to the Advertiser’s fifth edition of Inspire — the region’s weekly journey into art and culture.

This week, we speak to Menang elder Vernice Gillies, who shares her inspiring story about her passion for educating the community on Menang Noongar knowledge and culture.

Albany, or Kinjarling, is the beating heart of Menang Noongar land with a history dating back more than 50,000 years.

Their land extends north to the Stirling Range, Tenterden, Lake Muir, Cowerup and Shannon River.

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A place rich in culture and shared histories, the City of Albany is exploring traditional Noongar names for places in the area.

The Restoring Menang Noongar Boodja Place Names project will be guided by Ms Gillies’ enterprise Kurrah Mia.

“I’m part of the team running the project and we are doing lots of community meetings and talking to people about our special places and what the Menang names are for places like the ocean, land, hills — recording them,” Ms Gillies said.

What a brilliant initiative for promoting a greater understanding of our region’s original custodians.

The significance of acknowledging the language of the Menang should be embraced by all as a step towards reconciliation.

As the first Australians to occupy the land, shouldn’t they be the ones to tell their story?

Camera IconCredit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Ms Gillies said the project was not about erasing the City’s colonial names.

“It’s not re-naming, it’s dual-naming,” she said.

As the oldest settlement in WA, Albany has strong Aboriginal and European histories and it is only fair to recognise both.

As WA’s first white settlement in 1826, Albany will celebrate its bicentenary in 2026, so what better way to celebrate than with a project that aims to bring everyone together?

Speaking with Ms Gillies, it was clear just how special the project was to her.

She emphasised the importance of it being inclusive for all members of the community.

“The wider community will also be consulted and it would be absolutely fantastic to get everybody on board, even if you don’t agree with it — you’re allowed to have your own opinion,” she said.

Kinjarling means “place of plenty”, often interpreted as a place of plentiful rain, given Albany’s mild climate.

Other place names under consideration are King George Sound, known as Menang Koort to the Noongar people, meaning “heart of the whale”.

Not only will this project introduce an interesting element to places around Albany, but it is a chance for non-Aboriginal people to learn the language of the land they call home.

It is a step in the right direction and something everyone in the Great Southern should be proud of.

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