AS the time for voting on a name for the $50 million aquatic centre draws to a close Aboriginals and their supporters are making it clear that Yawa is their preferred title.
Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors last month rejected a recommendation that the aquatic centre be called Gunawarra and instead shortlisted five names for a public vote.
However, the councillors gave no guarantee that the most popular name would be adopted.
The five shortlisted names are: Gunawarra Aquatic Centre; Rosebud Aquatic Centre; Barbawar Aquatic Centre; Yawa Aquatic Centre; and Tides Aquatic Centre. Gunawarra means black swan, barbawar stingray and yawa to swim.
A declaration on the shire’s website invites “the community to vote for their favourite name”, adding that “the name with the majority of votes will be presented as the preferred name of the aquatic centre, for consideration and final endorsement” by councillors.
There is a concerted push by long time supporters of the aquatic centre for it to be called Rosebud Aquatic Centre although council officers say Geographic Names Victoria has stated that “Rosebud should … be avoided as it is commonly used in the vicinity and could cause confusion”.
The Hastings-based Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association’s executive officer Peter Aldenhoven says an Aboriginal name for the aquatic centre would be “a wonderful opportunity for the Mornington Peninsula community to make a strong reconciliation statement by acknowledging the First Peoples of the country we all live on”.
In a statement on the association’s Facebook page Mr Aldenhoven urged voters to support one of the three Aboriginal names.
Comments on the association’s Facebook page on Friday (19 July) were running 15 to one in favour of Yawa.
The only dissenting opinion opted for Rosebud Aquatic Centre because “it is easy to identify with the area”. A comment on that post said “Indigenous names always identify with the environment which in turn tells us something about the area”.
The council’s decision to reject its officers’ recommendation to name the aquatic centre Gunawarra and defer voting on a name for the aquatic centre was made on National Sorry Day (“Shire’s ‘ugly’ Sorry Day decision” The News 1/6/20).
The following day, Wednesday 27 May, the shire issued a “Celebrating National Reconciliation Week 2020” news release which quoted the mayor Cr Sam Hearn as saying the council had “an important role to play in promoting and celebrating Aboriginal cultural heritage, arts and cultures as part of the intrinsic identity and value of the Mornington Peninsula”.
He said the shire was “proud to be working with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to support meaningful social, cultural and economic outcomes. We know that to do this, strong relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities must be at the heart of our work”.
In a report to council’s 26 May meeting, the shire’s operations project manager for sport and recreation Amy Frost said the three suggested Aboriginal names “provide an opportunity to create a unique destination brand and an original narrative”.
Ms Frost said Gunawarra Aquatic Centre “aligns with the naming criteria as it is unique, positive, memorable and has endearing qualities”.
“The name Gunawarra has strong links to the local area and reflects the local Indigenous language.”
Voting for the aquatic centre’s name closes Thursday 9 July. To vote, go to: mornpen.vic.gov.au/haveyoursay.