Yarra supports Darebin Council's request to rename Batman

Thursday 26 October 2017

Darebin Council will lodge a written submission formally requesting the renaming of the Batman electorate, a decision that Yarra City Council supports.  It is proposing the name be changed to Simon Wonga.

Darebin Council has the support and endorsement of the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Aboriginal Corporation (Wurundjeri Council), the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee and Yarra City Council. We support this submission because it is consistent with our long history and commitment to reconciliation.

Every seven years, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) reviews federal electoral boundaries. This is formally known as a redistribution process. As part of the redistribution process, the AEC can also consider name changes to existing federal divisions/electorates.

Any interested individual, group or organisation can make a written submission suggesting a name change once the date for public submissions is announced.

On 18 October, 2017, the AEC announced the public could begin lodging its submissions and has until 17 November, 2017, to do so.

Making a Submission

If you would like to make a submission, it can be written in the form of letter, an email, or petition. Community groups or a group of individuals intending to make a submission on the same topic may choose to use a petition attached to one submission to the Redistribution Committee.

Suggestions, submission and petitions must be received by the committee by 6pm AEDT Friday 17 November. The AEC will make all suggestions received available for public inspection from Monday 20 November. The public will then have until 6pm AEDT on Friday 1 December 2017 to lodge written comments on suggestions.

More information on the AEC’s redistribution process including how to make a submission can be found on the AEC website

Background on Darebin Council’s Decision

In December 2016 and February 2017, Darebin City Council formally resolved to work with the Wurundjeri Council and other Aboriginal leaders to change the name of the federal electorate of Batman to Simon Wonga.

Darebin is lodging the submission as part of its commitment to reconciliation, and achieving a shared, inclusive and reconciled national identity. The submission is also underpinned by the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 which seeks to respect and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

John Batman

John Batman was a grazier and explorer who is considered one of Melbourne’s founders. He has also been associated with Indigenous land dispossession. Batman convinced Wurundjeri elders to sign over more than 200,000ha of ancestral land in exchange for blankets, flour and tools. He was widely criticised for the treaty, and colonial powers quickly annulled it saying Batman did not have the authority to sign such a treaty. In Tasmania, Batman has been documented in the murder of Aboriginal people.

The legacy of John Batman has a high profile and is strongly integrated into the Victorian mainstream. In Victoria, there are currently 23 places named after John Batman, and four commemorative markers.

Simon Wonga

The Wurundjeri Council proposed Simon Wonga as the new name for the electorate because it better reflects the Traditional Owners and is respectful of the families that make up the Wurundjeri community. Simon Wonga remains an unfamiliar figure for many people outside the Aboriginal community.

He was an important Aboriginal leader, who became a Ngurungaeta, or 'head man', of the Wurundjeri people in the mid-19th century, at a time when their future was uncertain. In 1835, when he was nine-years-old, Simon Wonga was with his father when he met John Batman. He also witnessed the signing of the Batman Treaty.

Simon Wonga helped his people face the loss of their traditional way of life, and achieved his vision for an Aboriginal settlement at Coranderrk near Healesville. At the time, it became the most successful Aboriginal mission in Australia with a thriving farming community, school, bakery and butcher.

To learn more about Simon Wonga, see the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.

The Division of Batman

The federal electorate or Division of Batman was created in 1906, replacing the Division of Northern Melbourne. Batman is located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and stretches through three local government areas: Yarra, Darebin and Whittlesea.

It takes in Alphington, Clifton Hill, Fairfield, Kingsbury, Northcote, Preston, Reservoir and Thornbury, and parts of Bundoora, Coburg North, Macleod and Thomastown. It covers an area of approximately 66sq kilometres from Thomastown/Bundoora in the north to Clifton Hill in the south, with Merri Creek providing the vast majority of the western boundary, and the eastern boundary provided by Darebin Creek, parts of Macleod and Plenty Road in Bundoora.

Of the 37 federal electoral divisions in Victoria, nine are named in Aboriginal languages: Ballarat, Corangamite, Corio, Indi, Jaga Jaga, Kooyong, Mallee, Maribyrnong, and Wannon.

For more information about Darebin Council’s decision and updates on the status of the submission visit their website.   


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