Street name deemed not offensive

Street name deemed not offensive

1279
The Blackboy Court sign was named after the native Xanthorrhoea tree like other signs in the neighbourhood that were named after other plants.

Gosnells councillors have refused a 12-year-old student’s petition to change the name of her street from Blackboy Court in Thornlie to Grasstree Court.

But they praised Grace Kenny’s tenacity in bringing her nine-name petition for her school project before council and her courage and confidence to address the councillors, saying she had great leadership potential.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, council staff had recommended asking the State Government’s Geographic Names Committee’s whether to change the name because of its cultural significance.

Following the receipt of the petition in July, the council received another 26-signature petition opposing the renaming because it would cause them significant inconvenience in changing their address details to all their banks, insurers, suppliers and acquaintances.

Blackboy Court was constructed in the late 1980s and the name was approved by the Department of Land Administration (now Landgate) in 1988.

The street includes 16 homes.

Surrounding street names include other native Australian flora including Boronia Court, Mulga Place, Hoya Court and Pimela Grove.

The name Blackboy is an informal term given to Xanthorrhoea plants, which are also commonly known as grass trees.

Following the receipt of the July petition, Blackboy Court property owners were invited to comment on the proposed renaming.

The council received 24 responses, including 17 objections and seven non-objections.

Graham Capstick, of Blackboy Court, put forward a collective representation from residents at Tuesday night’s meeting as to why the street name should not be changed.

He said no complaint had been made against the name of the street in its 25 years of existence, which supports the fact that most people and cultures making up the local population do not find it racially vilifying, derogatory or offensive.

He said the name was not a description of a coloured child but simply a common botanical name which was similar to the common surnames Whiteman and Blackman.

He said changing the name could cause division within the street which has always been a street of harmony and good relations.

He said the proposal had already caused a certain level of animosity and strong feelings from neighbours.

Ms Kenny said she had been taught about the history of Australia and she felt strongly about all the Aboriginal people who had suffered.

“I have tried to imagine how it would feel to be an Aboriginal person and to remember how they have been treated,” she said.

“I cannot change the past but I can try and change the future. If we can work together to do what we can why wouldn’t we?

“I have spoken to an Aboriginal friend and he has said he finds our street name very offensive. I feel very proud of what I have achieved lately and I would love it if our street name was changed.”

Cr Peter Abetz said he appreciated Ms Kenny’s sentiments but said Blackboy was a name given to many places around WA.

He said the council was not going to ask Aldi to stop selling sauerkraut.

“I am German by birth and when I went to school, I often got called a kraut and if you’re a sour kraut you are a grumpy German,” he said.

“That was an offensive term, are we going to say you can’t sell sauerkraut anymore?

“Let’s get real and look at life and not look for offence.”

He said there was nothing offensive in the common term for the grass tree and councillors should let the matter rest.

He said changing the name was “a bit like putting a bandaid on a shark bite”.

“We need to dive deeper and change things that genuinely make a difference in our community,” he said.

Cr Glenn Dewhurst put up a new motion not to change the street name.

Councillors voted not to refer the matter to Landgate or request GNC to investigate the appropriate status of the name Blackboy Court.