11 September 2019

Eden Monaro candidates support renaming Kosciuszko

| Ian Campbell
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Sunset from Mt Kosciuszko. Photo: Mike Edmondson, Reclaim Kosci.

Sunset from Mt Kosciuszko/Kunama Namadji. Photo: Mike Edmondson, Reclaim Kosci.

In an election campaign dominated by talk of tax cuts and changes, the voice of the region’s first people has cut through at the About Regional-Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidates Forum.

Speaking on behalf of the Ngarigo people of the Snowy Monaro, elder Michelle Francis asked the candidates standing for Eden Monaro if they would support the renaming or dual naming for Australia’s highest peak – Mount Kosciuszko.

Polish explorer Paweł Edmund Strzelecki named the 2,228-metre mound in 1840, in honour of Polish freedom fighter, General Tadeusz Kościuszko.

Ms Francis believes the time has come to revisit the name, pointing to the acceptance of Ayers Rock in Central Australia being renamed Uluru.

“The Aboriginal name is Kunama Namadji (Pron: Koo-nar-ma Nam-a-ji), Kumama is the Ngarigo word for snow and Namadji means mountain range,” Ms Francis says.

“Its a place known to all mobs as a meeting place, they came, they met, and they traded.

“It is so rich in resources – flint and rock from Kunama Namadji has been found all the way to Queensland.”

Ms Francis hopes the proposed name change will help with the ongoing discussion about reconciliation with Australia’s first people and believes it’s part of generational change.

“We are moving through time and it starts from the top,” she says suggesting an element of symbolism.

“This is the highest peak in Australia, and this [reconciliation] will work its way down.”

Accepting that some might be resistant to the name change idea, Ms Francis suggests those people engage in the conversation.

“When people feel uncomfortable they perhaps don’t understand the full story,” she says.

“So let’s step back and share our history and knowledge – it’s time to open this up, connect and come together.”

Snowy Valley’s Council has taken the lead on the proposal so far and has commissioned a report with recommendations to guide the next steps.

Ngarigo elder, Michelle Francis. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Ngarigo elder, Michelle Francis. Photo: Ian Campbell.

All the Eden Monaro candidates quizzed by Ms Francis at the Jindabyne forum seemed supportive.

“I live in a place called Dignams Creek which is at the base of what was Mount Dromedary and now has the name Gulaga – the old Aboriginal name for the mountain,” Liberal, Fiona Kotvojs said.

“I believe both names for places can work well – I am quite comfortable working for it if that’s what people want.”

Labor’s Mike Kelly said, “This is part of that education process that we have to engage in for the broader community.”

“I think we have to make sure that our landscape reflects the indigenous culture that we have here – it’s important to me and makes us special in the context of global cultures.”

Pat McGinlay from The Greens also spoke in support.

“So long as that is the will and determination of the local Aboriginal people and they are driving it,” he said.

The Nationals’ Sophie Wade said it’s a beautiful idea.

“I haven’t heard of this idea before, I would 100 per cent support this if I have the privilege of being the Member for Eden Monaro,” she said.

“This strengthens the community and is about doing the right thing.”

Ms Francis says she applauds the support of the candidates and looks forward to advancing the conversation after the election.

Editors note: There is a lot of interest in this idea, and we appreciate the many and varied views raised in the discussion so far. A further article will follow that looks to explore some of the points raised.

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Chris Gabriel9:27 am 19 May 19

It is the traditional name of the highest Australian peak and it should be changed to reflect that. I am a white Australian Farmer and believe we should use
more of the place names used by the people of the first nation.

The reason nobody has heard of Kunama Namadgi is because it’s made up, its name is Tar-Gungal

Christian Hampson1:53 pm 21 May 19

Fully agree this person has no cultural knowledge and that is shown by the misinformed name put forward.

David Eriksson11:33 am 11 May 19

Do it! Kumama it is. I live in Jindabyne and I’ve always thought it should have an indigenous name not a Polish one!

Andrzej Kozek11:20 am 11 May 19

Michelle Francis has been publicly denied in Jindabyne on 28th October 2017 being Ngarigo by true Ngarigo Elders. Dual naming requires well documented indigenous name. Kunama Namadgi is a made up name, not recognised by Ngarigo. Why not dual name historically justified: Mt Townsend-Targangil or Snowy Mountains – Munyang?

I love this idea. I have been living in this beautiful country since I was born 62 years ago, but it isn’t my land. I hope this comes to fruition, it would fill my heart!!!

Michelle Francis is a self proclaimed Aboriginal Elder from Tumbarumba, and does not speak on behalf of the Monaro Aboriginal people. There is not enough space here to explain the errors in her claims regarding Aboriginal association with Mt Koszciusko and the proposed new name. There is no evidence to support her claims, including archaeological, ethnographic, linguistic, historic, Aboriginal oral history and geological (Flint from Mt Koszciusko?) Anyone who thinks that this proposed renaming has any factual basis should do some basic research into these claims.

Marcus Mundy9:45 pm 09 May 19

Michelle Francis does not speak on behalf of the Ngarigo People! She can only speak on behalf of her family.

Yep. Rename it. Easier to spell.

Nancy Gant-Thompson6:28 pm 09 May 19

I totally agree to dual naming of the highest peak on the Australian mainland. It is a proven fact that Ngarigo aboriginals have been visiting this site for thousands of years and should be recognised together with the exploration of Paul Edmond Strezlecki.

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