Just one-third back giving priority to Aboriginal names, prominent women for new streets

Just one-third back giving priority to Aboriginal names, prominent women for new streets
David Schout

City of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece has criticised survey results that he said gave disproportionate voice to non-residents and older people.

Only one-third of survey respondents have backed a City of Melbourne move to prioritise the naming of new roads and places after their Aboriginal names, and those of prominent women.

In drafting a new “Place and Road Naming Policy”, the council sought community feedback on the move to prioritise Aboriginal language and women in history, in a move that would “help address the current imbalances in our place and road names”.

During the past 20 years, 50 new roads were named after men, however just 23 named were after women and only six use Aboriginal language.

However, the returned survey results were not what the council was after.

Just 33 per cent indicated support for the move, while 61 per cent did not support it (six per cent were “unsure”).

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the results were “mixed” and criticised the council’s own survey methodology.

Less than half (44 per cent) of survey respondents were City of Melbourne residents, while less than 40 per cent were aged under 50.

Cr Reece argued that people who lived outside the municipality and those aged “many decades” above the average local age had been disproportionately represented.

“As somebody who has a background in political science and social research – and I say this in the spirit of constructive feedback – that I do think there was some shortcomings in the methodology and the approach that was used to undertaking that community consultation process,” Cr Reece said.

“The majority of the responses were from people outside of the City of Melbourne. And secondly, if you look at the age demographics of the people who participated in the engagement exercise, you will find that they were folks of quite senior years."

"Now, in the City of Melbourne the average age is 30, and yet if you look at the people who participated in this community engagement exercise, you find the average age was many, many decades older than that.”

The Deputy Lord Mayor argued that Melbourne needed to “lift our game” and implement more diversity in road and place names.


It’s a sad fact that less than 10 per cent of the street names across the City of Melbourne are names of great women and I just don’t think that’s acceptable. Sadly, it’s a situation that’s not getting better. In fact, it’s a situation that’s getting worse.


He said the results over the past two years showed that a “huge gap that exists is actually not getting better, it’s getting worse”.

“If we just continue with business as usual it’s a situation that’s going the wrong way. So there has to be some sort of intervention to help lift our game and try and bring a bit more diversity, a bit more fairness to the naming of places across our municipality.”

However, Cr Roshena Campbell, the sole councillor to vote against the policy at the February 6 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, argued that the council did not need to implement a specific policy on the matter.

“I do believe the trend is going in the right direction and I have no doubt that if there was a local woman, and there is no doubt there are plenty of them who have made a significant contribution to Melbourne, if there was a view that a place should be named after her or an Indigenous person, I don’t think for a minute there would be resistance from the City of Melbourne to doing that,” Cr Campbell said.

“I don’t think we need to prioritise women at the expense of men because there are plenty of people of both sexes that have made a significant contribution to this city.”

The councillor, who has been the sole dissenting voice against a number of policies during this council term – most recently, plans to rebalance CBD streets and create more space for pedestrians, and plans to retrofit heavy-emitting commercial buildings – said survey results must be respected.

“When we sought the response from survey participants on these priorities, they agreed with my viewpoint. Sixty per cent of them did. And although there may be concerns about that methodology, when we the City of Melbourne go out and say to people, ‘Tell us what you think?’ And they tell us, I think we have an obligation to listen.”

A revised version of the “Place and Road Naming Policy” was set to be presented to councillors by April 9. •

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