Debate rages over decision to rename 'racist' Aussie suburb

·2-min read

An island off the coast of Lake Macquarie in NSW is set to be renamed due to its name's racist connotations.

However, a survey found that over half of the locals opposed the change in name from Coon Island to Pirrita Island, and Coon Island Point to Miners Point.

On Monday night, the Lake Macquarie City Council voted 8-5 to rename the popular picnic spot, which is located south of Lake Macquarie, two hours north of Sydney.

A photo of a picnic area on Coon Island, which proposed name is Pirrita Island.
Lake Macquarie City Council has voted to change the name of Coon Island. Source: Lake Macquarie City

Instead, they are looking to have both an Indigenous and non-Indigenous name for the island. The council will now submit the proposed name change to the NSW Government's Geographical Names Board.

However, according to local reports, 2120 local residents found that 56 per cent don't agree with the decision, and only 44 per cent of people are supporting the name change.

More than half the locals disagree with the decision

Locals disagreeing with the change have taken to social media to vent their frustration, many claiming it is 'political correctness gone mad.'

"Changed or not, it's still COONIE to me and my family. And our kids call it that too," one woman wrote in a Facebook comment.

"It will always be known by this name," agreed another.

The name has racist connotations says councillor

Liberal councillor Kevin Baker told that Coon Island and Coon Island Point were both named after an anglo-Saxton man, Herbert Heaney who is the first recorded resident on the island in 1915.

A screenshot from Google Maps showing the island's location.
Coon Island is located about 30km south of Newcastle. Source: Google Maps

“Herbert Heaney was a white guy who worked in coal mines and would come out with coal dust on his face and got the nickname ‘coon’; it’s just not appropriate in this day and age,” he explained.

“This name is very offensive to some in our community and I think there is a better way to represent the history of this island.

Earlier this year, a popular Australian dairy product called ‘Coon Cheese’ was rebranded by its owners to ‘Cheer Cheese’ due to concerns about the racial connotations of the product’s name. The name was instead changed to ‘Cheer Cheese'.

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