Social media users are claiming Australian cities and towns will be renamed if the ‘yes’ vote succeeds in the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum.
This is false. Experts told AAP FactCheck the proposed body wouldn’t have the power to rename locations, which is generally a state or territory government responsibility. Dual naming systems, allowing places to have non-Indigenous and Indigenous names already exist across the country.
Facebook users have been calling for people to “vote no” in the upcoming referendum to prevent the renaming of city, town and landmark in Australia (see examples here, here, here, here, here, here and here).
“If the yes “vote” is successful in the “voice” referendum every city, town and street sign is set to be renamed,” another post warns.
This post links the proposed federal advisory body to the recent renaming of Fraser Island as K’gari by the Queensland government.
However, rather than the powers the proposed voice would have, the documents are minutes from 13 ‘regional dialogue’ consultation events involving about 1200 Indigenous people that helped shape the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. This in turn helped shape the voice proposal.
One participant spoke about the lack of acknowledgment of Aboriginal people in place names at the Cairns dialogue on March 24-26, 2017 (page 49).
Another individual suggested that Aboriginal names should be used for places across Australia at the Brisbane dialogue on April 21-23, 2017 (page 67).
Neither of those comments was made by government representatives, mentioned in the later Uluru Statement or adopted as part of the voice to parliament proposal.
Dr Hobbs says it would be redundant to give it that power as dual naming systems allow Indigenous place names to be recorded alongside non-Indigenous names already in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT.
“Generally speaking, states and territories are responsible for place names rather than the Commonwealth…The voice would be able to make representations on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Dr Hobbs told AAP FactCheck in an email.
“Place names would fit within that definition. The voice might make a representation to the Commonwealth asking that the existing policy is amended in some way to facilitate increased use of dual naming… However, representations are just that, they are not a power to compel or require anyone to listen, to respond, or act.”
Professor Gabrielle Appleby, a public law expert at the University of NSW says the naming of localities and cities is generally a matter for state and territory governments “unless the land is Commonwealth land”.
Prof Appleby said while using First Nations names for places could be an area that the voice could advise on, that doesn’t mean the body would advise on it.
“The voice does not have any unilateral power to rename cities or localities, it would be limited to making representations to the government, seeking these changes,” she told AAP FactCheck.
Prof Appleby added that the federal government, rather than the voice, would make the decision on whether such policies would or could be pursued in co-operation with state, territory and local governments.
The claim that the Indigenous voice to parliament would rename all cities, towns and landmarks is false.
Experts told AAP FactCheck the proposed advisory body would be able to make representations but not enact laws or policies.
They also said place names are generally the responsibility of state and territory governments, not the Commonwealth, and dual naming systems recording non-Indigenous and Indigenous names already exist in all jurisdictions.
False – The claim is inaccurate.