An Indigenous leader has called for a peaceful debate over the possibility of naming the new aquatic centre in recognition of the area’s Indigenous heritage.
And Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chairman Trent Nelson believes Bendigo has become an emerging regional leader regarding Indigenous appreciation and awareness.
Councillors will vote on whether to provisionally name the Kangaroo Flat facility the “Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre” at an ordinary meeting on Wednesday.
Former election candidate Jack Lyons on Sunday claimed 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”.
Related:Aquatic name causes a stir
Mr Lyons said the centre should be named after Bendigo’s only Olympic Gold medalist in swimming, Faith Leech, while suggesting he had no issues with recognising Indigenous Australians.
Mr Nelson said the City of Greater Bendigo had approached the corporation to provide a name for the facility.
“We want to move forward with this and make sure it's peaceful, we don't want to bring hostility to the argument,” he said.
“Gurri Wanyarra” means Kangaroo Waterhole, which references the creek close to the facility.
Bendigo has a number of Indigenous links to man-made structures – Ulumbarra Theatre and the Dja Dja Wurrung Tram – and the municipality was “leading the recognition” of traditional peoples, he said.
Despite overwhelming public support, Ballarat council in 2014 voted against naming a new suburb “Mullawallah” out of respect of a local Aboriginal elder who died in 1896.
“There’s no difference between the Indigenous naming of a creek or a building. It’s more about bringing our language back. A lot of our community don't understand our language or who we are as people,” Mr Nelson said.
Since the state government’s recognition and settlement agreement in 2013, which which formally recognised the Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional owners for part of Central Victoria, great strides have been made locally, he said.
Related:Works start on aquatic centre
City of Greater Bendigo director presentation and assets Craig Lloyd said the proposed pool names – “Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre” and “Faith Leech Wellbeing and Aquatic Centre” – were in line with the city’s place-naming policy.
“Council does not have a quota to fill to name places in Indigenous languages, however the city’s Reconciliation Plan outlines a key objective to 'Increase the recognition of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the municipality’,” he said.