Jack Lyons claims Indigenous naming proposal at new Kangaroo Flat pool "not appropriate", and a backward step

Former Premier Denis Napthine and Jack Lyons.
Former Premier Denis Napthine and Jack Lyons.

Former election candidate Jack Lyons claims a proposal to name the new aquatic centre in recognition of the area’s Indigenous heritage would be a backward step, arguing it is “not appropriate”.

Councillors will vote on whether to provisionally name the Kangaroo Flat aquatic centre the “Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre” at an ordinary meeting on Wednesday.

“Gurri Wanyarra” means Kangaroo Waterhole, which references the creek close to the facility, and was a name submitted by the Dja Dja Wurrung. 

Related: Works start on Kangaroo Flat aquatic centre

However the former Liberal candidate for the seat of Bendigo West said council may have quotas to reach for naming buildings or areas that have cultural significance.

“We don’t need to name every new venue with a traditional name - that's going backwards, not forwards,” he said.

“We should be naming the centre to what’s appropriate in the area and to the existing street names we have, which are all former Olympians.”

A number of streets close to the multi-million dollar aquatic facility were named after Australian Olympians, said Mr Lyons, suggesting he had “no issues with council or traditional elders”.

Former Premier Denis Napthine and Jack Lyons.

Former Premier Denis Napthine and Jack Lyons.

The centre should be named after Bendigo’s only Olympic Gold medalist in swimming, Faith Leech, he said.

“It’s the only time we can give significant recognition to Faith Leech and what she did for all young women with her achievements,” he said. 

A report prepared for councillors suggests initially naming the facility the “Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre” and naming the learn to swim pool within the centre the “Faith Leech Learn to Swim Pool”.

“There has been community support to name the new facility after Olympian Faith Leech,” the report states. 

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“In selecting a name associated with Faith Leech, the council would fail to recognise the Indigenous connection to the nearby creek.” 

Councillors will vote on the two shortlisted names – “Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre” and “Faith Leech Wellbeing and Aquatic Centre” – and council will re-consult with the community on the chosen name for a minimum of 30 days.

The City of Greater Bendigo received 25 naming submissions through its naming competition in June, and a small number either side of that.