'Jim Crow' was a racist epithet for people of colour. Dja Dja Wurrung people say its continued use is offensive.
By
Massilia Aili

Source:
NITV News
5 Oct 2021 - 5:04 PM  UPDATED 5 Oct 2021 - 5:14 PM

Residents of the Hepburn and Mount Alexander Shires in central Victoria will vote on whether a creek should be renamed to reflect the region's Dja Dja Wurrung language.

Locals within the two council areas have been sent a survey asking for their views on the proposed name of Larni Barramal Yaluk, meaning home/habitat of the emu creek

“I think it’s fantastic," Rodney Carter, CEO of Dja Dja Wurrung Group, told NITV News.

"Others might want Dja Dja Wurrung language to be put back into Country, and indirectly it's affording mob recognition and responsibility and that’s all really positive.”

The initiative aims to reinstate Dja Dja Wurrung language back into Country, and to recognise and pay homage to the area's Aboriginal heritage. 

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“It’s more than just a renaming, it’s a reinstatement of Dja Dja Wurrung back into our landscape and an elimination of what is a racist name,” Lesley Hewitt, Mayor of Hepburn Shire Council said. 

The current name, Jim Crow Creek, has long been considered derogatory and offensive, and reflective of colonialism. It has its roots in 19th century America, where actor Thomas Dartmouth developed the first blackface minstrel character, called 'Jim Crow'. 

Dartmouth's racist portrayals of enslaved, disheveled and grossly stereotyped African Americans became world famous, leading ‘Jim Crow’ to become an epithet for people of colour everywhere.

The ‘Jim Crow Laws’ in the United States (1877 to 1965) made discrimination and racial segregation legal and enforceable.

“I’m astounded that we’ve borrowed something so offensive from halfway across the world and we bring it here and put on Aboriginal Country,” Mr Carter said. 

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The name Larni Barramal Yaluk was proposed by the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.

Mr Carter dismissed the concerns of some residents that the name is unpronounceable. 

“I think that the argument is flawed, I think the proper and right thing to do is to learn and speak the language of Country,” Mr Carter said. 

Hepburn Shire Council has posted a video for residents struggling with pronunciation. 

Residents were posted the survey on the 30th of September, and have until the 12th of November to cast their votes. 

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