His name has graced a Northcote park for over a century, and he’s got naming rights to an electorate, a railway station, a statue, multiple streets, and even a CBD hill. Soon, the name of controversial Melbourne founder John Batman could be nowhere to be found.
Calls to remove Batman’s name come after serious concerns about the 19th century colonist’s torrid past. These days, his name is synonymous with the murder of Aboriginal people in Tasmania in the early 1800s, with historians suggesting Batman took part in the bounty hunting of Indigenous people living in the region.
Not only that, but in 1835, the colonist reportedly convinced Indigenous elders to sign a treaty trading more than 200,000 hectares of ancestral between Melbourne and Geelong for blankets, flour and other menial goods.
The push to rename traces of Batman's legacy comes in the spirit of reconciliation. This week the City of Darebin council voted to rename the federal electoral division of Batman, a seat that encompasses Melbourne’s northern suburbs of Northcote, Bundoora, Macleod and Preston.
A group called Rename Batman has also been lobbying for the name change. Emily De Rango is a resident of the Batman electorate and a passionate member of the Rename Batman community. Speaking to Time Out, Emily says their main goal is to bring awareness to the wider community. "We think the change is important because the electorate has a rich and long history that isn't being well-reflected with the current name. Particularly for the local Wurundjeri people, Batman only means dispossession and pain."
The Age reported that the electorate of Batman is likely to undergo redistribution from December, which means a new name could be introduced as a replacement. The Wurundjeri Land Council have suggested Simon Wonga as an alternate name. Wonga, a Wurundjeri elder, was one of the first Aboriginal leaders to successfully regain lands taken by settlers and helped establish the Coranderrk settlement.
According to De Rango, "changing the name to Simon Wonga gives the whole community a chance to recognise and celebrate our area and its traditional owners, and helps us move toward reconciliation". The reception to the change has been positive, according to De Rango. "It's also been so great to see leaders in our community, the Wurundjeri Land Council, Federal Member David Feeney, and the Darebin Council all working together on this. I think that shows just how widespread the support for the change is."
The City of Darebin also has plans to rename Batman Park in Northcote. Here’s hoping Batman’s other titles get thrown out in the trash where they belong.
Via The Age.