Lake Eyre will now also be known by its Aboriginal name - Kati Thanda, following a decision by South Australia's Geographical Names Board.
By
Phillippa Carisbrooke

2 Jan 2013 - 1:58 PM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2013 - 6:04 PM

Following is a transcript from World News Australia Radio

Thousands of tourists travel to outback South Australia each year to visit Lake Eyre.

But many will be unfamiliar with its Aboriginal name - Kati Thanda.

That is set to change, with the state's Geographical Names Board's decision that Australia's largest salt lake should be officially referred to by both names.

The ruling has been welcomed by the area's native title holders, but a local MP warns it could damage tourism.

LISTEN: Phillippa Carisbrooke reports.

Aboriginal people have been living around Lake Eyre for thousands of years.

It features in many of their stories and songs.

But they commonly call it by its ancient name, Kati Thanda.

That name is set to become more widely used, with South Australia's Geographical Names Board accepting a request from the area's native title holders, the Arabana people, for the lake to have two names.

The chairman of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation, Aaron Stuart, says the decision will ensure the Aboriginal name survives.

"This kind act, I call it a kind act, with the dual naming or the renaming, however you wish to say. This has resurrected a name that was basically nearly extinct. I am so proud."

Aaron Stuart says the name change represents a significant moment in the reconciliation process.

"I know this may seem a small act in the big scheme of things. But I think it is just small acts like this here that make people like the Arabana and Aboriginal people feel good to be in this country. And I think we have got to start standing up, and we are here and this is the right thing to do, for all Australians."

South Australia's Geographical Names Unit says going forward all official publications, such as maps, signs and brochures, should use both of the lake's names.

The unit's manager, Bill Watt, says dual names are comparatively common in the state.

"We have approximately from memory around 300 features that bear dual names with one being the traditional Aboriginal name and the other being from any other source. But a lot of them are in more remote areas of the state. However, we have dual named the main river that flows through Adelaide, which is Torrens River Karra wirra-parri. And as we work with more different Aboriginal language groups we certainly hope to increase the number of dual names represented across South Australia."

The lake is in the federal House of Representatives electorate of Grey, held by the Liberal Party's Rowan Ramsey.

Mr Ramsey believes it will take time for the Aboriginal name to enter the mainstream.

And he has cautioned that the change of name could negatively impact the area's standing in the international tourism market.

"A lot of work has gone into promoting Lake Eyre and probably as we have seen with Ayres Rock or Uluru there are still many people in our international markets that recognise the old name if you like and I guess in this case we are talking about dual names, and we just want to be careful with that intellectual property or marketing property that we don't alienate ourselves from that market."

But the Co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia believes international tourists will embrace the Aboriginal name.

Dr Tom Calma says reviews have shown visitors come to Australia to experience the country's traditional culture.

"Tourists generally will pick up on the Aboriginal name, because many international tourists coming to Australia are coming here to gain an Aboriginal experience, an Torres strait Islander experience, and so they want to know about the heartland of the nation and that is the pre-colonisation existence of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people. And get a much more authentic relationship and understanding by knowing the names that are placed by the original inhabitants."