Darling River is called Baaka by Barkindji people, now NSW Government considers dual name





Posted

December 04, 2019 06:20:06

The NSW Government is considering whether to formally adopt a traditional name for the Darling River, to exist side-by-side with the European name it has held since 1829.

Key points:

  • The Barkindji people have called the Darling River “Baaka” for thousands of years
  • In 1829 it was named after NSW Governor Ralph Darling, by explorer Charles Sturt
  • Barkindji gained native title over large parts of western NSW, including the River between Tilpa and Menindee in 2015

The Darling River has been known as the Baaka by the Barkindji people for thousands of years.

The NSW Geographical Names Board said it was about to begin consultation about whether to formally recognise Baaka as a dual name for the river.

“[The Board] will reach out to relevant Local Aboriginal Land Councils, local government councils and National Parks seeking endorsement for a proposal to dual name the Darling River as Baaka,” it said in a statement.

The river was named by explorer Charles Sturt in honour of NSW Governor Ralph Darling.

The name Baaka has become widely used by non-Indigenous people, organisations and politicians in recent years, especially after the river’s poor health and fish kills at Menindee hit national headlines.

‘It will give the river more respect’

Many local Indigenous people blame mismanagement by state and federal authorities for the poor state of the river.

It has barely flowed for two years, and in many stretches has dried up completely.

Barkindji elder and Wilcannia artist Badger Bates said formally recognising the Indigenous name for the river would emphasise its importance to local culture and spirituality.

“It will give the river more respect, the Baaka more respect,” Mr Bates said.

“It’s going to make the Government realise that there are people dependent on it, and not just irrigators,” he said.

He said the fact the name was regularly used even outside a local Indigenous context suggested there would be support for dual-naming.

“I reckon the support’ll be great,” he said.

“It’s not just black people want to call it the Baaka — it should be respecting both cultures’ wishes.

“Everyone who lives along the Baaka, even animals, if they could talk, they’d get up and say call it the Baaka, so you can manage it properly.”

Earlier this year, the native title group proposed a new culturally-focused authority to oversee the management of the river.

Naming must respect cultural boundaries: peak body

The Barkindji people were granted native title over a large portion of far west NSW in 2015, including the river between an area north of Tilpa and south of Menindee.

Fred Hooper from Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN), which represents Indigenous groups along the upper Darling and Barwon Rivers, said any dual naming should occur within those boundaries.

“We support certainly the dual naming within the Barkindji native title boundaries that they have native title over,” Mr Hooper said.

“Certainly upstream we would call for consultation with the Ngiyampaa people, the Ngemba people, and the Murrawarri people in regards to the naming of that.”

He said NBAN would oppose any decision to extend the name Baaka beyond the Barkindji region.

“It’s not keeping with First Nations protocol and First Nations law to impose names on other nations or other traditional owner groups along the river, without consultation from those traditional owner groups as well.”

Members of the public will be able to have their say on the Geographical Names Board’s website for a month.

Topics:

rivers,

indigenous-policy,

indigenous-culture,

states-and-territories,

aboriginal-language,

indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander,

broken-hill-2880,

tilpa-2840,

menindee-2879,

wilcannia-2836



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