THE City of Joondalup has “clearly flagged its intention to change the name” of Blackboy Park in Mullaloo but to what is still to be decided.
The move to rename the park started in March when Cr Russ Fishwick requested a report, saying the term ‘blackboy’ was “now considered politically incorrect and potentially offensive” and “belonging to the past”.
He said it was a slang term for a grasstree “based on the purported similarity in appearance of the trunked species to an Aboriginal man holding an upright spear”.
“Most people now consider this name to be offensive to Aboriginals,” he said.
The report was presented to the council last week, with City officers recommending the name be changed to Karalundie Park, in line with Landgate’s policy to name parks after an adjoining road.
“Karalundie Way is the road with the longest frontage to Blackboy Park and is considered an appropriate alternative name,” the council report said.
However, at the council briefing, Cr Philippa Taylor raised concerns with the name Karalundie, which is also the name of an Aboriginal mission north of Meekatharra (spelt Karalundi).
“This is a mission where Aboriginal children were taken in the 1950s,” she reiterated at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“Many of these missions were actually places of cruelty to these children so this may not be a place of celebration for some Aboriginal people.”
She said she also asked a Noongar Whadjuk elder for his advice and he explained it was cultural protocol to use names from the Noongar Whadjuk area, which Meekatharra is not.
“So Karalundie is culturally inappropriate,” she said.
Cr Taylor said it was also Landgate’s policy that Aboriginal place names from one area should not be applied to another.
She therefore moved an alternative motion to “seek advice on appropriate Aboriginal names” to replace Blackboy Park for council to consider before community consultation.
She said the name Blackboy came from “a different era, a racist era.”
“This language stems back to the colonial past of this country,” she said.
“Changing the name is not being overly PC (politically correct) but to acknowledge the past and to move forward towards reconciliation.“For many years now we have stopped using this reference for the tree because of the origin… but since the change in our language, the park name has been left unchanged.
“Once people properly understand the context and origin of the slang name, I’m hopeful they will also understand the need to change the name of the park.”
Cr Taylor said it was “actually a mystery” as to why the park was named Blackboy Park because there were no grass trees in the park until 2008 when they were planted by the City of Joondalup.
The push to change the name also follows a letter from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt to local governments encouraging them to look at renaming places and landmarks that may be inappropriately named.
“If we can do something as simple as change the name of a park to avoid causing offence to some members of our community then this is something we should do,” Cr Taylor said.
“If we are to proceed toward reconciliation lots of these steps must be taken.
“This is just one small park in one suburb but if each local government does their best and plays their part at a grassroots level to remove the names Aboriginal people find offensive then this is one small path we can be proud to say we took towards reconciliation.”
At the meeting, Cr Nige Jones asked how many complaints the City had received about the name of the park and acting chief executive Dale Page said while she was not aware of any, that did not mean none had been made.
Cr Jones said he doorknocked the four streets surrounding the park earlier on Tuesday to get their views.
“The feedback I received was most residents would prefer the park name stay as Blackboy Park,” he said.
“The local community identify the park as Blackboy Park.
“Most residents thought the change of name was political correctness gone mad.
“Noting Landgate’s policy requires evidence of substantial community support for a change of name, it is imperative we bring the local residents along with us.”
One resident who received a visit from Cr Jones attended the council meeting.
She said she had asked Noongar elder and Curtin University sessional academic George Hayden for his thoughts and he told her he would like to see a name change to utilise the Noongar language.
“I know people can say political correctness can get out of hand but the community needs to come to terms with what we as Aboriginal people went through,” he told her.
“I believe this would go towards building a better future for all to live in.”
She suggested dual naming the park could be “an appropriate movement to acknowledge both parties”.
Mayor Albert Jacob, who was the ward councillor for Mullaloo when the City planted the grasstrees at the park, said he supported the name change but it was “not something we need to rush”.
“I wholeheartedly support consulting in the first instance around what name we will then consult on with the community,” he said.
“We don’t want this to be divisive.”
“We clearly flag an intention to change the name… but we will do it in a considered and consultative way.”
The alternative motion was unanimously passed.