The proposed aboriginal name for Hobart which, as testified by the Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie, will replace the existing name may not be a simplistic as envisaged. There are not only historic matters to consider, but legal and public acceptance. Consultation must be taken with all Tasmanians, not just those within the Hobart City Council’s jurisdiction. After all, Hobart being the capital of our State belongs to everyone, whether they reside in Glenorchy, Ringarooma, Launceston, Queenstown, where-ever.
The city of Hobart was named after Lord Hobart, the Secretary of War and Colonies, yet the first Hobart was at Risdon Cove (1803) and letters between Lt John Bowen and Governor Philip Gidley King in Sydney shows this. When David Collins arrived in February 1804 and moved the settlement to Sullivan’s Cove, which was first termed “the camp” Collins continued with the name Hobart in his honour.
The present Lord Hobart, Earl of Buckingham is patron of the Hobart Town (1804) First Settlers Association.
Clearly neither Hobart nor any city of any kind existed before 1804. To say that conditions of the early settlement were difficult would be an understatement. I have written about the struggles of this period previously, but it is suffice to say that from those foundations arose the modern, high standard of living city of Hobart. The current city just did not happen, it was built on the backs of those who came before us. Intentionally or not their sacrifice and endurance, their fortitude and courage is the reason why we have our city. If these pioneers had not arrived, Hobart as we know and love, would not exist….I would not be here, the Hobart City Council would not be here, the Tasmania Government would not be here and so on. I believe I have made my point.
We should, therefore, be eternally grateful for those who came before us. To change the name of their city shows a huge sense of ingratitude and like the closure of the many churches which is currently a topic, I wonder what the founders would think of we modern folk undoing their efforts.
The problem with the proposed name is there is no agreement on its historical roots or accuracy. By consulting my aboriginal friend, whose group is not connected to the TAC whatsoever, I understand that the Tasmanian aboriginals did not name specific places as European do, such as after indivuduals like Lord Hobart. Rather it was a reference to a place or locality where good shell fish were found, or a good area for wallabies. Aboriginal reference to where Hobart now stands could not possibly embrace the concept of a city let alone the modern capital of Tasmania.
Any name change, however, would entail great financial costs and I would suggest great confusion, known now for 214 years as Hobart world-wide with all its traditions and history and suddenly there is to be a new name? New names for cities usually come with a substantial change of government such as the fall of Communism in Russia or the new South African Republic, although the latter has retained such names as Dundee, Johannesburg, Cape Town, etc. It seems to me the proposed name change is simply a whim of politicians and lobby groups, without any consultation with the people of Tasmania.
One thing which irks people, the masses of which I am one, is the belief that governments and many politicians do not truly represent the electorate – after all they are called our “representatives” and we employ them. Too often they represent themselves, their Party, lobby groups and even foreign bodies, seemingly the electorate last. Like the scriptures state, the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath, so the government was created for the people, not the people for the government.
Too many individual politicians in a position of influence believe they have a mandate to push their personal political or social point of view upon the rest of us. Often this is without the consent of the people or to our benefit. In essence they have a pet project and without following proper procedure go ahead and implement their desire on us all.
With the proposed name change by our Lord Mayor I understand the proper procedure has not been followed. He has taken upon himself to promote the concept without any reference to the Hobart City Aldermen and one wonders why he has done this. However, the name change of our capital cannot be the responsibility alone of the HCC. As our capital it has to be the responsibilty of Parliament and the State Government or more pointedly, the people. This can be determined through a State-wide referendum. The latter will be a true public representation rather than a hand full of self-interested people deciding for us. In reality even a referendum is not warranted here. I have no doubt that in honour of the heritage of this fine city, the majority of Tasmania do not agree with the Lord Mayor and if this being the case, then why is it even being seriously considered?
Hobart is a fine, beautiful medium sized city, which we love. It is a progressive city, an innovative one, but one which prides and appreciates our founding pioneers and history, which includes Hobart as its name. Leave it alone. If this did go head what is next? The name Tasmania?
Already there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of towns, districts and streets that have Tasmanian aboriginal names, so the original inhabitants have not been forgotten in this regard. It is true that the origin Tasmanians were the first, but we should embrace the wonderful contribution of the British so both can be justifiably recognised. We are all ‘natives’ of Tasmania.