At a Special Meeting on Tuesday evening Council heard the views of the community on the renaming of Jim Crow Creek.
The creek is formed by the confluence of Spring Creek and Sailors Creek near Breakneck Gorge north of the Hepburn oval and runs north for 26 km to join the Loddon River near Newstead.
The name is considered to be racially derisive and offensive in the United States where it was associated with laws requiring the segregation of African Americans. The Daylesford and Hepburn area was once known as Jim Crow and later as Wombat. Many locals believe that the name is inappropriate and have campaigned for change.
Fourteen requests to address council were received and Council heard from people in support and opposed to the name change. The meeting was plagued by technical difficulties but Councillors patiently waited while each speaker in turn sorted out their problems.
Michelle Clifford has campaigned to change the name since 2008. She said that the name is “racially offensive and causes emotional harm and trauma” to Indigenous people. She cited many precedents in Australia where offensive names given to landforms by European settlers had been changed to their previous traditional names. She said we “need to correct the injustices and the incorrect history of colonialism.”
Liz Ingham spoke passionately using the proposed traditional name of the creek, Larni Barramal Yaluk, instead of the current name. “I’m not going to us that name. No one should ever be asked to use that name again,” she said.
Gary Lawrence, curator of the Daylesford Museum, spoke about the history of the name. It comes from a derisive song used in blackface vaudeville comedy routines in the US. He said that European settlers such as John Hepburn gave new names to places despite instructions from the British government to record and use traditional place names. He considers the name offensive and hurtful to traditional owners and said that the use of European names ignores tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal history. He concluded by saying, “The name given by Djara should be recognised, recorded and used from this point onward as evidence that we are all walking together in reconciliation.”
Susan Morgan, a local resident originally from the United States, said that Jim Crow laws still exist in Oklahoma and that the term is directly related to white supremacy.
Brett Ellenport spoke of the importance of the traditional names of places. “They indicated that we are connected to the country; we’re not separated from it. When new names are used, we become disconnected to country,” he said.
Nick Richardson cited the research that Barry Golding has done on the name of the creek. Although he didn’t speak at the meeting, Professor Golding has written extensively on his website and has published a piece in The Wombat Post about the current name.
Yvonne Deans has lived in Elevated Plains 30 years and was the only person to speak against the renaming. Although she was listening to the live stream on two other devices (a source of many of the technical difficulties during the meeting), she claimed that she had never heard any negative comments about the name. “Why are we fixing something that isn’t wrong?” she asked. “Was there a focus group that was looking for something to complain about? Was it council trying to find something to hang their hat on in this current climate of diversity?” She accused the Council of being “weak and woke” and wasting time and money on a matter so little importance. She concluded, “Jim Crow is part of our history and it will always be Jim Crow to us.”
No decision on the name change was taken at the meeting. Council will make a decision about the name change at their next regular meeting on April 19.