In a nod to the Wadawurrung traditional owners and wider Indigenous community, City of Ballarat is seeking to bestow an Indigenous name on a long unnamed roadway located in Ballarat's Lake Gardens.
The unnamed road, situated in the Prince of Wales recreation reserve opposite the botanic gardens, affords access to several sporting facilities, including the Alfredton Baseball Club, on the western side, through to Hockey Ballarat, to the east.
The proposed name - 'Kunuwarra Drive' (pronounced Koo-noo-warrah), which translates to 'black swan' in the native Wadawurrung language - aligns with a Victorian government push to incorporate more Indigenous languages into street or place names, having recently revised the state's naming rules .
It comes seven years after council ultimately dropped a proposal to name a suburb (what is now Winter Valley) "Mullawallah", after respected Indigenous elder William Wilson ('King Billy'), following what was largely perceived to be a racist backlash within the community.
At the time, the backdown on the part of council, and the unedifying debate which preceded it, made headlines around the world.
City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said, however, he was confident community sentiment had shifted in the years since.
"The level of understanding in our community with respect to our traditional custodians and their wonderful culture, which goes back 60,000 years, has tremendously increased," he said, adding that the proposed name was, in any event, particularly apt given the prevalence of "lazy black swans waddling" around the Prince of Wales reserve.
"I think people now realise that words like 'Ballarat', 'Buninyong' and 'Wendouree' are all Aboriginal words anyway, so there's nothing unusual about what's being proposed."
It was a sentiment shared by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Paul Davis, who said traditional owners had been consulted on, and supported, the proposal.
"It's important, not only for traditional owners but the wider community in Ballarat, that we all maintain a connection with the ongoing significance and connection of place traditional owners have with the land."
Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive Karen Heap largely echoed these remarks, saying the proposal would constitute another positive step forward for Ballarat.
"Our community and the wider Ballarat community has been through a lot in the last few years, with things like the pandemic and we all pulled together well," she said.
"We haven't got many Aboriginal street names in Ballarat, at this stage, so this really would be brilliant."
Since 2014, the City of Ballarat has identified the inclusion of Indigenous words in place names as an element of its reconciliation plan, with a view to raising community awareness about local Indigenous culture.
The road is being named to facilitate the ability of emergency services to identify precise locations in the event of an emergency.
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