• The Island is set to be renamed 'Pirrita Island' - an Awabakal name meaning oysters that grow from mangrove trees (NITV)Source: NITV
Councillors voted 8-5 in favour of changing the name of C**n Island - which was named after a miner who was given the nickname because he would come home covered in coal dust.
Shahni Wellington

27 Jul 2021 - 10:48 AM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2021 - 11:43 AM

A racist place name in a small New South Wales' coastal community is set to be changed after a council vote on Monday night.

C**n Island, a nature reserve in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Swansea, will be given the name ‘Pirrita’ Island - an Awabakal word for oysters from the mangrove tree.

The island was originally named after Herbert Heaney, the first permanent resident.

Heaney was a miner who would come home covered with coal dust and was referred to as ‘c**n’ because of his blackface.

Councillors voted 8-5 in favour of the change, with the name expected to be passed by the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales.

C**n Island Point, where the mining residences used to be, will be renamed Miner's Point.

The process saw consultation with the local community as well as engagement with stakeholders, including Traditional Owner groups, and the family of Mr Heaney before the proposal was put forward.

A community consultation survey by Lake Macquarie City Council received 2,120 responses, with 938 respondents supportive of a name change while 1,182 were not.

The Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Awabakal Descendants Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation have been lobbying for the offensive names to be changed. 

Bahtabah Land Council's Kentan Proctor, who grew up in the area, told NITV News that while he was pleased with the outcome, he found the number of people against the change concerning.

"I'm more disappointed in the outcome of the votes ... I'm happy that it has been changed, but it's quite sad that it had to be changed in that sort of manner," he said.

"it's always good to have a win - Especially little ones, and those little ones that eventually snowball into bigger ones. So hopefully, you know, this is sort of the catalyst for change.

"I'm happy with the two different names too, you know, to show light in Western culture and also in our Indigenous culture."

Lake Macquarie Councillor Kevin Baker, who originally filed the motion to change, said he was pleased with the outcome and thanked all those involved.

"C**n Island was a name that was genuinely racist and genuinely hurtful to a lot of people in our community," he said.

"This outcome, renaming the places Pirrita Island and Miners Point, balances the recognition of the European history of the island and the significant contribution miners have had to our area, but also the 60,000-plus years of Indigenous history that the places have. 

"Healing can only begin after the process of truth-telling."

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