A plan to acknowledge indigenous culture and connection to Bawley Point by erecting signs saying the village name means “brown snake” has sustained a fatal bite.
According to Shane Carriage, chief executive officer of the Ulladulla local Aboriginal Land Council, Bawley and brown snake are not synonymous.
“Our word for snake is gari,” said Mr Carriage, whose language group is Dhurga.
“Elders’ stories handed down to me say Bawley was originally called Baldy Point because it was bare, with no trees or grass and the word changed over the years to become Bawley,” he said.
Shoalhaven Tourism has a plan to install 35 new indigenous-named town signs throughout the city.
In a media release on its website on April 14 it posted the towns with what it believed to be their corresponding indigenous meanings.
Councillor Allan Baptist asked Shoalhaven Tourism Manager Coralie Bell to reconsider posting the Bawley Point signs after recent comments by Margaret Hamon on the Bawley Point and Kioloa Community Association’s facebook page.
“Margaret is well known as a local historian and if she says something is wrong I heed her call,” Cr Baptist said.
He thinks the brown snake misnomer occurred because it has been wrongly stored in a council database.
“This came up before some years ago. It’s a great idea but there was a kerfuffle then as well.”
The error persists via the Geographical Names Register of NSW, footnoted by Wikipedia in 2009.
Ms Bell is more than happy to make sure no incorrect signage goes up.
“Our aboriginal advisory committee during the consultation process tried to be sensitive to what people wanted - it’s really about respecting the community,” she said.
“If there is a consensus about another name, we’ll put up whatever they want and respect their view - as long as they all agree.”
Mr Carriage said “nobody from council has asked us” about the meaning but Bawley Point is within the boundaries of the Batemans Bay local Aboriginal Lands Council.
Down at the Bay they were none the wiser - no approach came from council through their office, according to Alisha Davis, who then intended to talk to elders to see if they had been directly contacted.
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