Rural Autochthony? The Rejection of an Aboriginal Placename in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

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Janice Newton


This article addresses the question of why the name ‘Mullawallah’, advanced by local Wada wurrung for a new suburb in the Ballarat area, was contested and rejected by residents. It argues that the intersection between corporate profit, government policy and meaning-based issues of belonging should be highlighted for a deeper understanding of practices around place naming. The contextual conditions regarding the democratisation of place-naming policy, overwhelming power of commercial developers to ‘name Australia’ with marketable high status names and a ‘carpentered’ pastoral environment ‘emptied’ of the Indigenous population, created an environment conducive for the contests over naming. The Indigenous people appeared to have been wiped from the landscape and the worldview of settler locals. Concepts of ‘locals’ and ‘rural autochthony’ prove useful for understanding the ambiguities of belonging and placename attachment in Australia. The article argues that cultural politics of naming remains a contested social practice.

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Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Janice Newton, Federation University

Janice Newton is an adjunct senior researcher in the Faculty of Education and Arts, Federation University, Ballarat, and author of Mullawallah: The Last King Billy of Ballarat (2014). She formerly lectured in and published across disciplines in the social sciences and she currently focuses on research into Victorian Indigenous history and anthropology.