‘Shocked’ Melbourne council to change name after discovering slavery link

Moreland City council in Melbourne’s north will commit to changing its name after being made aware it was called after a Jamaican sugar plantation that used slave labour.

The proposal, likely to be voted on at a council meeting in December, was briefed to councillors on Tuesday evening by new Greens mayor Mark Riley and the council’s chief executive.

Moreland City Council will change its name after discovering links to a Jamaican slave plantation.Credit:Jason South

The pair met with a community group that includes Indigenous elders and former federal MP Phil Cleary last week, who informed them of the links to the Moreland estate.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn that 27 years ago, Moreland was named after a slave estate. The history behind the naming of this area is painful, uncomfortable and very wrong. It needs to be addressed,” Cr Riley said.

“Moreland stands firmly against racism, we are one community, proudly diverse. Council is committed to working with Wurundjeri people and we take the request very seriously.”

Scotsman Farquhar McCrae arrived in what is now the City of Moreland in 1839, where he named land from Moonee Ponds Creek to Sydney Road after the Jamaican sugar plantation his family helped operate.

The plantation had up to 700 enslaved workers at any one time in the decades after opening in the 1780s. Dr McCrae used the Moreland name six years after Britain made slavery illegal in 1833.

The City of Moreland will become the latest organisation to address its colonial history through a name change, after the NSW government committed earlier this month to renaming Ben Boyd National Park.

The park, which covers 8900 hectares on the NSW south coast, was named after infamous Scottish blackbirder Benjamin Boyd. The state government intends to assign an Indigenous name in recognition of the Aboriginal culture heritage of the area.

The Moreland name – also used on a prominent road in Melbourne’s inner-north – was assigned to the council in 1994 as part of the Kennett government’s amalgamations.

It has not committed to a timeline or detailed the exact process, although the state government will be the final signatories on a change.

A report on the proposal will be presented at the council’s next meeting on December 8.

In a statement, Cr Riley said it was not under consideration to change the name of any other features in the Moreland area including roads or schools.

Indigenous community leader Andrew Gardiner, part of the group that lobbied the City of Moreland, said the elders of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung – the traditional occupants of the land – were shocked to discover the name came from a slave plantation.

“That it was then used to name land stolen in the catastrophic displacement, dispossession and discrimination that swept our people from their timeless homelands, adds to the hurt,” he said.

“This council is a great supporter of Indigenous issues, with its statement of commitment and progress toward treaty, and we can help them build on this good work as they select a new name that’s consistent with recognition and truth.”

More to come.

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