What’s in a name? This is the question at the heart of the ACT Government’s review into place names, which has resulted in the decision to rename William Slim Drive.
The review tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 6 June looked at the processes for naming public places in the ACT, including the ACT Place Names Committee, the Place Names Guidelines and the opportunities for community input and feedback.
ACT Minister for Heritage Mick Gentleman said the government intends to rename William Slim Drive “following careful consideration including allegations made to the ACT Government, a submission made by the Slim family, and the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse”.
One of the recommendations from the Royal Commission was that institutions should “review their existing institutional honours, dedications and memorials to make sure that they do not honour perpetrators of child sexual abuse”.
“I have asked the Place Names Committee for further advice on the process and new naming options and I expect to formally rename the road on duplication,” Minister Gentleman said.
However, he acknowledged the Slim family are “unhappy with the decision to rename”.
In a response from a Slim family representative to the review it said: “if the street name is to be changed as a result of the allegation of child abuse against our Grandfather by less than a handful of people, my family would object in the strongest possible terms”.
The family’s response questions the veracity of allegations and suggests “the decision to name a street after him was based on merit and recognition and was not a mere token or formality”.
In addition to William Slim Drive, Haig Park has also been subject to debate surrounding its name.
Minister Gentleman said the ACT Government plans to install new signage telling the contested history of Field Marshal Haig’s wartime legacy. “This will recognise differing views and help inform discussion around Australia’s experience in WWI.”
Overall, the Place Names Review found robust processes exist for place naming in the ACT.
Recommendations included: the Committee update its renaming policy to provide better guidance to the community and an improved framework for assessing renaming proposals; better community input into the place naming process; and the development of an online web portal for the community to provide feedback or complaints on existing names.
The ACT Government has agreed to all recommendations put forward in the review and plans to implement them within the next 12 months.