THE process to rename Jim Crow Creek is progressing, with the traditional owners of the land revealing a preference for what they would like the new name to be.
During the last decade many community members, the traditional owners of the land - the Dja Dja Wurrung - and more recently members of Hepburn Shire Council's Reconciliation Action Plan Committee have called for Jim Crow Creek to be renamed due to the racially offensive connotations of the name.
The creek, which starts just outside of Hepburn and runs through small townships such as Franklinford and north to near Newstead - where it joins the Loddon River - is more than 20-kilometres long and like many historically significant sites in the region, it once had an Indigenous name.
The term 'Jim Crow' is a deeply racist and derogatory term that dates back almost 200 years.
Information gathered from historical records and compiled by professor Barry Golding AM indicates the origins and racist connotations associated with the naming of 'Jim Crow Creek' in the Central Goldfields of Victoria date back to the early 1840s.
In the 1830s, the term was widely used to describe black and enslaved people in America, with a popular song resulting in the term 'Jim Crow' being widely adopted elsewhere.
A white minstrel who would wear black-face performed a song called 'Jump Jim Crow' in the 1830s, with the actor who performed it caricaturing a clumsy, dim-witted black slave.
Experiencing popularity, the actor toured America and the United Kingdom, with the derogatory term 'Jim Crow' becoming widely used.
Another way the term was spread was through an English poem called 'The Jackdaw of Rheims' in the late 1830s, which described how a dishevelled black crow was persecuted.
The fictional character of Jim Crow perpetuated racist stereotypes of enslaved people, with the character transferred to the creation of the since repealed 'Jim Crow Laws', which became a part of several US state constitutions.
These laws mandated the segregation of public transport, schools, places, toilets, drinking fountains and restaurants for white and black people and were mandated from 1877 until the 1950s.
It is believed the name 'Jim Crow' was likely first given to the mountain which was previously known as Lalgambook - now called Mount Franklin - by squatter John Hepburn, who arrived in the now Hepburn Shire in the late 1830s.
Golding believes he would have been exposed to these ideas as a former sea captain who travelled in international seas.
In addition to the mountain, historical records also highlight that the term 'Jim Crow' was applied to the creek and sometimes to the Aboriginal Protectorate and the individual Aboriginal people who lived within it. In later decades, some of the goldfields were also referred to with the name.
The creek borders the area of Franklinford - or Larrnebarramul, as it was known to the Dja Dja Wurrung people.
Franklinford is historically significant as a place where the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station was located.
Today, the racist connotations of the term are widely acknowledged.
Hepburn Shire Council, Mount Alexander Shire Council and the North Central Catchment Management authority have been working collectively with the Dja Dja Wurrung to determine a more culturally appropriate name for the creek.
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter said as the land can mean 'the home of the emu', the board would like to see the creek's name changed to 'larni barramal yaluk'.
He said the Dja Dja Wurrung understood how difficult it could be for a community to change place names, but it was positive to see so much support for Dja Dja Wurrung language to be applied back to the landscape.
It's really positive because it's conducive of better types of values and addressing the dispossession of first people and the associated disadvantages.Rodney Carter
"It's really positive because it's conducive of better types of values and addressing the dispossession of first people and the associated disadvantages," he said.
"Putting language back into the landscape puts people back into landscape. Naming places in our language opens up conversations so when people say that word, it is talking to country. You create a degree of fondness and care of a place."
A Hepburn Shire Council spokesperson said council deemed the project an important part of its commitment to Reconciliation.
The council is employing officers to undertake research and community consultation about the issue, while it is consulting with Geographic Place Names, naming stakeholders and the Dja Dja Wurrung to progress the project.
The process has commenced but may take up to 12 months, inclusive of community consultation.