Riley echoed Gardiner’s sentiments, saying it was “an opportunity to give this multicultural community a name we can all be proud of, and begin to right the wrongs of European settlement”.
A motion to change the council’s name before the end of 2022 passed by six to three last year after a delegation informed Riley and Moreland’s chief executive Cathy Henderson of the name’s disturbing history.
Moreland was the name of a Jamaican sugar plantation owned by the family of Scotsman Farquhar McCrae, who owned as many as 700 slaves in the decades following its establishment in the 1780s.
McCrae arrived in Melbourne in 1839 and after expropriating the native owners of a tract of land he bought stretching from Moonee Ponds Creek to Sydney Road, he renamed it Moreland, after his family’s estate. Britain had made slavery illegal in 1833.
The Moreland name – also used on a prominent road in Melbourne’s outback – was assigned to the council in 1994 as part of the amalgamation of the Kennett government. The area includes the suburbs of Brunswick, Coburg and Pascoe Vale.
Over the next month, the three proposed names will be discussed with residents and the meaning of each name carefully explained to help guide their choice, Riley said.
A senior Indigenous figure, Gary Murray, said his preference was for: Merri-bek because it means power.
“I’ve always believed it to be one blood, one globe. We are all human, we all have human rights, and we must protect them. This process started by the city of Moreland and the Wurundjeri First Nations group is quite powerful.”
A name is expected to be officially chosen in July after local residents and indigenous community members voice their views online or by post.
The council said assets such as street and park signs, trash cans and staff uniforms would be changed incrementally within existing budget allocations “and asset renewal programs over 10 years.”
For two fiscal years, between $250,000 and $500,000 is set aside each year to make the changes.
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