SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has officially added its support to the campaign to change the name of the federal seat of McMillan, so that it is no longer named after the controversial early Gippsland pioneer Angus McMillan.
At the April council meeting last Wednesday, Councillors Mohya Davies, Don Hill and Kieran Kennedy submitted a motion calling for Council to advocate a name change.
Earlier in the day, the Labor candidate for the electorate in the forthcoming federal election, Chris Buckingham, spoke in support of changing the name.
Mr Buckingham said that he welcomed Council’s decision to consider the need to change the name. “I believe the three levels of government should collaborate,” he said.
He said that with Angus McMillan now being generally known to have been one of the people responsible for the massacre of indigenous people, it was highly inappropriate for the electorate to bear his name. “We are well overdue for a name change,” he said. “It will recognise the wrong and show we’re after reconciliation. McMillan was a murderer who was never held to account. Instead he was named ‘Protector of the Aborigines’ and had a seat named after him!”
Mr Buckingham exhorted Council to join him in letting the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) know that “we want a name change that more closely accords with our values”.
Cr Davies thanked Mr Buckingham for his support and said she had received several letters of support for a name change from members of the community.
Cr Kennedy noted that the name change has the support of the federal member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, as well as the Greens candidate.
“There is tri-partisan agreement!” acknowledged Mr Buckingham. He added that getting agreement on the need for a name change was the first step. Choosing an alternative name would be a separate challenge.
When it came to the vote at the council meeting, there was support for the name change from all the councillors present (Cr Jeanette Harding was absent), except for Cr Lorraine Brunt, who abstained from the vote.
“In this day and age it’s appropriate that we consider another name for the electorate,” said Cr Davies.
Cr Kennedy commended the notion of motion and suggested the electorate should be renamed ‘Monash.’
Cr Brunt said that she had a problem with Council deciding to rename McMillan before consulting with the community. “It’s not up to us,” she said.
Cr Andrew McEwen said that it would be a gesture of reconciliation to remove the name ‘McMillan’ and was long overdue. Then he couldn’t resist a dig at Cr Brunt’s mention of the need for further consultation, saying that he wished she had applied the same rule for consultation when it came to discussing the need for a new municipal building…
Cr Davies said that she expected that the AEC would carry out a thorough consultation when the time came. “This is a step towards practical reconciliation,” she said, adding that she would like to see the seat named after a woman if possible.
Mr Broadbent believes McMillan will go through a redistribution after the next federal election because it has well over the required number of voters in it. He has written to the AEC, suggesting that would be a good time to rename the seat, and his suggestion is ‘Monash.’
The response from the AEC was that the next federal redistribution of Victoria is scheduled to commence “within 30 days of 24 December 2017,” being seven years after the last redistribution. It will be up to interested individuals or organisations to propose alternative names for electoral divisions such as McMillan then.