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12 March 1991 - Current

 
GEOGRAPHIC PLACE NAMES BILL
Page 390
8 April 1998
COUNCIL Second Reading ROSS

  Hon. J.  W.  G. ROSS (Higinbotham) --  It gives me great pleasure  to speak in
support of the Geographic Place Names  Bill. I acknowledge the contribution made
by Mr Nardella, and I thank the opposition for its support of the bill.
The title of the bill belies the ubiquitous impact of this legislation. The bill
has implications for  our national and local  identity; it has  implications for
the celebration of the lives of  certain people  and historic events; and it has
enormous scientific implications  for the way we handle the almost  unimaginable
quantity of  digital data on each of us that  is assembled as we travel from the
cradle to the grave.
I  want  to  elaborate briefly on  a  few aspects of the  legislation  by way of
examples and also record some important information that  I found interesting as
I analysed the aims of the bill.

The  first point  is that  the bill  has been influenced  by a  detailed inquiry
undertaken by  KPMG entitled 'Review  of Place Names Committee  -- Final Report,
November 1, 1995'.
Among  other  things the inquiry found that persons who may make submissions  or
objections to the Victorian  Place Names Committee  are not defined; time  lines
are  set  for  only  one  part  of  the  process  of  consultation;  ministerial
involvement in the process is partial; the 
cover of the Place Names Committee is illogical -- school names but not hospital
names are controlled; and, some names go through  the consultative process while
others arrive via maps and are registered without consultation. The inquiry also
found that the processes of the Place Names Committee may duplicate processes of
agencies that consult on name changes.  One  of  the  main  conclusions  of  the
inquiry was that the process may be very slow and duplicative.


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The purpose of the bill is to respond to existing shortcomings, make provision for the naming of places and amend the Survey Co-ordination Act 1958 and the Local Government Act 1989. There are three key aspects in these reforms: the first is to recognise the primary importance of local government and the need for community involvement in the selection of appropriate place names. Within the bill the word 'place' is necessarily a technical definition and means any place or building that is or is likely to be of public or historical interest. In particular the bill specifies towns, suburbs and localities and the streets and roads that lie within them as well as topographical features -- items like parks and gardens -- and buildings such as government schools and hospitals. In this place, particularly in relation to legislation such as this, one is always tempted to reflect on one's own electorate. However, I resist the temptation to go too far down that track because this bill specifically restricts its operation and does not apply to either the naming of electoral provinces or districts or to municipal districts or wards. Nevertheless, it would be remiss of me not to mention in passing that Higinbotham is one of the two electoral provinces that are named after distinguished Victorians. In the case of my electorate, George Higinbotham was a former member of the Victorian Parliament and chief justice of the Supreme Court and one of Brighton's favourite sons. However, the lack of direct application of the bill to the naming of electoral provinces does not preclude me from commenting on some important implications of the bill in respect of my own electorate and its historical and cultural implications. Later I would like to give some practical and scientific examples of the critical need for this legislation in relation to the processing of digital data and its translation into information about all of us. The original inhabitants of Higinbotham, of course, were Aborigines and in particular the Bunurong people. The Bunurong are generally described as the coastal tribe that frequented the Sandringham district for thousands of years. They made tracks along the foreshore and their existence is still marked by shell middens and freshwater wells discernible at the base of the sandstone cliffs at Beaumaris and Black Rock. Now, given the rich history of Bunurong people and the extent to which their lives were documented, I record my disappointment that as far as I have been able to ascertain there is not one street, road or locality in my electorate that celebrates their ancient history, and I take the opportunity of the passage of this important legislation to call on the relevant municipalities to give early consideration to correcting that anomaly. In so calling, I add that the most recent version of the Place Names Committee's guidance notes dated May 1995 says that naming policies which prevail in Australia and internationally are, inter alia, that the use of traditional Aboriginal place names is encouraged, subject to authorisation from relevant Aboriginal communities. The guidelines are particularly applicable in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. That is not to say that areas of my electorate have not recognised a rich Koori history. For example, the former municipality of Moorabbin derives from an Aboriginal word mooroolboon, which principally means a resting place. However, the word also describes local activities such as mothers breastfeeding their babies in areas where food was abundant. Another interpretation of mooroolboon is mothers milk. The Bunurong were never numerous and their tribes were quickly devastated by European settlement so that by the 1860s the Mordi tribe remained as their last vestige camped by the local creek . Given the lack of overall recognition of the Bunurong I am pleased to say that the legacy of indigenous Mordi people does survive as a derivative name of the suburb of Mordialloc and to this day the Aboriginal flag maintains a quiet vigil on the south bank of Mordialloc Creek. European traditions, of course, have been more fully preserved and the nostalgic links with Mother England still survive in the localities of Brighton, Sandringham and Cheltenham. The pioneers of the locality are also well represented in suburbs like Hampton, which was named after Dyas Hampton, a sawyer from Wiltshire who came to cut trees on Crown land outside Brighton, and made his fortune supplying firewood to Melbourne. Thomas Bent, after whom the suburb of Bentleigh is named, was the son of a ticket-of-leave man who had established market gardens in the McKinnon area in 1851. Thomas Bent's formal connection with Moorabbin lasted more than 45 years as the local rate collector and later a councillor in Moorabbin and Brighton. He first came to state prominence in 1871 when he defeated George Higinbotham for the seat of Brighton. His parliamentary service was not continuous but by 1904 he was Premier of Victoria until his government was defeated in 1908.
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As I move around my electorate there is barely a day that passes that I am not reminded through the names of localities and streets of the history and heritage of the locality. Last week in the city of Bayside I had occasion to visit the Sandringham Primary School in Bamfield Street. Streets signs in that locality are subtitled as the historic precinct of Gipsy Village. The immediate past mayor of Bayside, Cr Graeme Disney, recorded the history of the area and notes: There appears to be no foundation to the popular folk tale that this area was once the camping place of a gipsy king, Bamfield Moor Carew, and that a gipsy queen lived in Queens Square and that their children were named Francis, Susan, Henry and Arthur. There is, however, some connection with gipsies because a grave in the old churchyard in Bickleigh, Devon (England) records the final resting place of 'Bamfylde Moore Carew, King of the Gipsies;' who was born in 1690. Perhaps Holloway (who first subdivided the area later renamed Sandringham) had remembered the grave from his youth, or had read about it, and decided to perpetuate the names. Place naming is a constant process of evolution and there is probably no better example of how communities assert their identity than the responses by local councils in my electorate to the notification from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that it had adopted the 'suburb' in urban areas as the ideal framework for the Australian Standard Geographical Classification. Consequently, the Victorian Place Names Committee requested municipalities to clearly define their suburban boundaries. That need arose after municipal amalgamations across Australia wreaked havoc on the assembly and comparability of nearly every piece of spatial and time-series data related to the quinquennial census and its utility as a population denominator. How the City of Kingston approached the task is a good example of how suburbs might be defined and named in subordinate legislation under the Geographic Place Names Act. First, the council adopted some guiding principles that were required to be regarded in the naming process: the history of the area and the community of interest within the suburb; statistical requirements and the need for boundaries to represent aggregations of ABS census collection districts; major physical boundaries such as freeways, roads and rivers, which impose natural boundaries on localities; minimisation of disruption to residents by perceived impacts on property values; the cost of items such as stationery for businesses; and Australia Post postcode boundaries. Next, the council developed a process of community consultation by asking its representative village committees for input. Draft maps were then shown in customer service centres and libraries and the community was invited to participate by notices in the council's newspaper and other local newspapers. Although it differs in detail, that is exactly the approach envisaged in the bill. It is spelled out in part 2 entitled 'Guidelines for Geographic Names'. Part 3 provides for the registration of geographic names and establishes consultative mechanisms by creating Geographic Place Names Advisory committees to the Minister for Conservation and Land Management. Those expert committees will have a membership of professional people representing a broad and defined range of relevant scientific and cultural disciplines. In Kingston, the major changes proposed to the Place Names Committee in my electorate were to have the Moorabbin airport defined as a locality in its own right; the areas previously designated as Cheltenham East and Cheltenham North to be included with Cheltenham; and similarly the area previously known as Moorabbin East to be incorporated into Moorabbin. In Glen Eira, I am quite pleased at the change of name of my locality from South Oakleigh to East Bentleigh because it will much more clearly convey my address in my electorate. The other significant change in Glen Eira concerns the area south of Patterson Road currently referred to as Moorabbin. That will change to Bentleigh and properties in and beyond South Road east of Tucker Road will be renamed as Bentleigh East. The process is continuing as I speak. Last Friday was the deadline for East Bentleigh residents to have their say on whether that patch of East Bentleigh should keep its name. The alternative is for the boundaries of Ormond, McKinnon and Bentleigh to be extended to East Boundary Road. In Bayside the following changes are proposed: that the middle of Charman Road between Weatherall and Beach roads become the divider between the suburbs of Mentone and Beaumaris; that the area bounded south of South Road -- between New Street and the beach -- and the west side of New Street -- between South Road and the beach -- become clarified as Brighton and the south side of South Road between Nepean Highway service road and Hampton Street become clarified as Brighton East and further west between Hampton and New Streets as Brighton. My objective in detailing some of the issues and processes in the naming of suburbs in my electorate is to show, in the most practical way, how the objects of the bill relate to the real world and how choices on place names enshrine our heritage, culture and present preference and ambitions.
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Before I conclude I shall touch on those aspects of the bill that relate to the maintenance of the Register of Geographic Names in a digital format and refer to some possible applications of the raw data and other implications for information creation. Much of the impetus for reform was to be able to use digital geographic coordinates for emergency service dispatch services provided by ambulances, the police and fire services. But there are more subtle uses for a digital geographic data matrix that will be prepared by the Registrar of Geographic Names and its potential for the merging of compatible databases. The quinquennial census in Australia is arguably the most comprehensive and complete set of high quality demographic data regularly assembled anywhere in the world and is the most obvious candidate for merging. I am sure all members will have examined social atlases of their electorates for political campaign purposes and decided on the basis of such maps where, for example, bilingual campaign information can be targeted. I invite honourable members to consider how merging the Victorian public hospital inpatient management information system and home addresses of all hospital patients could assist in our understanding of disease and the pattern of distribution of medical procedures. It is now possible to map admissions to hospitals by diagnosis and to determine the diagnosis-specific catchment areas of all our public treatment facilities. A merger of those databases would also mean that at any time after patients sought treatment authorities would be able to monitor epidemics in communities, interpret the patterns and provide a response within hours. I conclude by describing the most sophisticated scenario that will be enabled by the passage of the bill. For example, in the case of the Victorian Cancer Registry and the geographic distribution of any form of cancer not only could we map the spatial distribution of the disease but we could also select from the census age-specific denominators and map the distribution of, say, colorectal cancer in adult males over 40 years of age. We could aggregate the statistics across the metropolitan area and using the census make predictions of the expected rate of colorectal cancer for each suburb. Authorities would then have an observed and an expected rate of colorectal cancer, and that would allow for the application of probability tests such as the chi square test to our suburbs. We could then map the likelihood that the levels of cancer found were abnormal, and if required seek the necessary epidemiological explanations. This would be tantamount to mapping hot spots of disease. A golden thread runs through the proposed legislation and tightly ties together our history and our social and cultural identity and paves the way for the application of some of the most sophisticated scientific and statistical methods of information creation from raw numbers that are known to man. I commend the bill to the house.