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Racist name of New South Wales island to be changed after vote

The Independent logo The Independent 27/07/2021 Matt Mathers
a long road with grass on the side of the road: coonisland.jpg © Google coonisland.jpg

Two racist place names in Australia will be changed following a vote by councillors.

Coon Island and Coon Point in the New South Wales Hunter region, near Newcastle, are set to renamed Pirrita Island and Miners Point respectively.

The move came after a divisive local debate about whether or not the names were offensive.

The areas were named after a nickname for Herbert Greta Heaney. He was the first person to live there in 1915 and it's understood he was given the name because he was a miner who returned home from work with his face covered in coal dust.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the word is an offensive term used to refer to a black person.

Despite a majority of more than 55 per cent of the local population saying they were against changing the names, Lake Macquarie City Council earlier this week voted in favour.

Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council acting chief executive Kentan Proctor said the names should have been changed long ago.

"Back in the day it was obviously a little bit different, but the Aboriginal community find the name is quite racist, significantly racist, honestly," he said.

Speaking of the local backlash to the changes, he added: "It's quite a shame to have that in the community here, especially where my family is going to grow up. It's hurtful really."

Pirrita is the local Awabakal Aboriginal word for oysters from the mangrove tree.

Miners Point is in recognition of the coal mining families who lived there in the 20th century.

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