• Olivia, 6, swings from a tree onto the dry bed of the Darling -Barka river. (Getty Images AsiaPac/Mark Evans)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac/Mark Evans
The Darling River has long been known to the Barkandji people as the Baaka, and now they are one step closer towards a dual name.
Brooke Fryer

24 Dec 2019 - 12:44 PM  UPDATED 24 Dec 2019 - 2:41 PM

The New South Wales Government is reaching out for public comment as it considers formally dual naming the Darling River.  

The river has been known as the Baaka by the local Barkandji people for tens of thousands of years. Now the Barkandji Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation (BNTGAC) are leading the way for the name to be formally included.

CEO of the BNTGAC Derek Hardman told NITV News having a dual name was all about giving back to the Barkandji people cultural recognition. 

“For us, it’s about recognition and respect to our identity and our culture and for our old people that have gone before us," Mr Hardman said.

“We aren't taking nothing away from anyone; we just want some recognition for what the Baaka is, that is what our aim is, to get it recognised.”

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In 2015, the Barkandji people were granted native title over a large amount of far west NSW. Mr Hardman said that since then the Barkandji people had gained an influx of support from the wider community.  

"I think for the broader community, we already have the support, regardless of native title or not it’s about giving the traditional owners that right,” he said.  

“It is a positive thing, it is a good thing to have a dual name, and we hope it does come... it could start a conversation across the nation about other things being named into their traditional language.”  

The river was originally named in honour of NSW Governor Ralph Darling by explorer Charles Sturt. But in recent years Baaka has been widely used by non-Indigenous people, including politicians 

“For tourism and the wider community, they are getting an understanding for what the country is traditionally all about... I hope everyone embraces it,” Mr Hardman said.  

The river currently has not seen water for years. Mr Hardman said they, and the rest of the country, are in dire need of rain.  

“We got no river; it hurts us, it is pretty draining,” he said.  

“It’s not about the water, it is about culture and identity, we can’t go fishing... there’s a lot of impact in different ways.”  

The proposed dual name of Baaka is for the full length of the Darling River. The river starts north-east of Bourke through Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie and Wentworth where it joins the Murray River. 

The Geographical Names Board (GNB) has opened the public discussion as it engages with community members over the dual name and spelling.  

“Community feedback and the call for submissions is an important part of the place naming process,” a spokesperson from the GNB told NITV News.  

“If there are objections to a submission, the GNB will seek further advice...  If no objections are received after the submission period has elapsed, the proposed name is assigned as a dual name in the NSW Government Gazette, and it becomes an official geographical name.”  

The Chair of the GNB, Narelle Underwood, said in a statement that its ambition is to reawaken Aboriginal place names.  

“Dual naming supports recognition and revival of Aboriginal languages,” Mrs Underwood said. “We want to make sure the local community has an opportunity to provide their feedback.” 

The government had reportedly been in consultation with local communities since December last year.  

Currently, any feature in NSW that has a non-Aboriginal name can be assigned one as part of the Geographical Names Act 1966. Following the formal recognition of a dual name, signage, maps and directories are updated.  

However, dual naming does not apply for towns, roads, neighbourhoods or places like reserves and state forests. 

The community can currently have their say on the GNB website 

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