Perth’s City of Stirling will retain its current name despite calls to rename the city from members of the local Noongar community.

The City of Stirling currently carries the legacy of Governor James Stirling, Western Australia’s first governor, who was also responsible for the Pinjarra Massacre.

In October 1834, armed with settlers and government officials, Stirling attacked Bindjareb Noongar families who were resisting colonisation.

It is recorded that 15 men died in the massacre but the estimated number sits much higher at 80 – including government officials, women and children.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, the City of Stirling Council heard arguments for and against the name change but came to no formal decision.

It’s estimated that over 100 people were present with some standing outside holding signs in support of the renaming.

Councillor for the Osborne Ward Adam Spagnolo presented a petition calling for the city to retain Stirling’s name and suggested that the renaming discussion be taken off the table, fearing it would set a dangerous precedent and would cost the city an excess of money.

However, Councillor Lisa Thornton suggested the possibility of a dual name of Noongar language which would acknowledge Noongar Traditional Owners.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the City of Stirling reaffirmed their commitment to their Reconciliation Action Plan which does not include renaming the city.

“Since this matter was first raised, we have welcomed respectful debate around this conversation and as a basis for these discussions it was important that we clarified the status of City’s reconciliation journey,” Mayor Mark Irwin said in the statement.

“While changing the name of the City of Stirling is not being progressed, stronger recognition of Aboriginal history and culture is certainly a priority and we are reaffirming our reconciliation efforts in good faith to the commitments we have already made with our Elders and community.”

WA Greens Senate candidate Dorinda Cox, a Yamatji Noongar woman, was present at the meeting on Tuesday.

Cox, a ratepayer within the City of Stirling for over a decade, noted that the legacy of Governor Stirling was very strong within the city.

“Every single day I drove past the parklands, the waterways, the street signs in Stirling,” she said.

“It was a constant reminder of the impact, the pain and the collective grief that the Noongar people of my Nation have experienced.”

In a post on social media, Cox acknowledged the actions of the Governor against Noongar peoples.

“James Stirling, after which the City of Stirling is named, was directly responsible for devising and leading the Pinjarra Massacre, in which 80 Binjareb Noongar peoples lost their lives,” she wrote.

“Continuing to celebrate colonialists like Stirling sends a clear message to our communities that the intergenerational pain and trauma First Nations people experience simply doesn’t matter.

“It is continuing to white-wash our history.”

Calls to rename the city have been heard across the country, with Noongar man Cole Baxter leading a campaign via social media.

 

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A post shared by Cole Baxter (@swagneverdies)

Despite strong activism, Baxter says the “likes, shares and comments” did not move the discussion in their favour.

“They were counting in ones and tens, and we were measuring in hundreds and thousands,” he said.

“The ratepayers of Stirling, their emails and calls count. But our online shares, likes and comments don’t.

“Stirling did awful stuff and was intrinsic in colonisation and causing trauma to Noongar people, it is only the Stirling suburb and the cluster of suburbs in the today City of Stirling that have a say in whether that sticks around or not.”

The motion to rename the City came forth through a petition which was handed to the Council.

In June 2020, the WA Greens called for colonial place names to be reviewed, with the list including the Stirling Range.

By Rachael Knowles