Racist street name set to disappear

Council will consider a recommendation to change the name of Hottentot Crescent, Mullumbimby to “Moonlight Close”. Picture: Google Maps
Council will consider a recommendation to change the name of Hottentot Crescent, Mullumbimby to “Moonlight Close”. Picture: Google Maps

A racist street name in northern NSW is set to disappear, but not all residents are happy about it.

Byron Shire councillors will consider a recommendation to change the name of Hottentot Crescent in Mullumbimby to “Moonlight Close” after council resolved to commence the name changing process for the crescent in November following a concerned resident’s request.

While John Simons’ change.com petition calling the removal of the name “Hottentot”, which is a racial slur in South Africa, garnered 383 signatures, not all residents and community members supported the change.

The name of Hottentot Crescent, in Mullumbimby, is set to change. Picture: Google Maps
The name of Hottentot Crescent, in Mullumbimby, is set to change. Picture: Google Maps

Last year, 12 submissions to council from past and present residents objected to the proposal, with one writing that they firmly believed Hottentot Crescent’s name should be retained.

“My understanding is that our street name was chosen decades ago, after a tree, the Hottentot Bean Tree (Schotia Brachypetala). Never in my time as a resident here, have I heard another person ever relate the street name in regards to a racial slur,” the resident wrote.

“While I appreciate the concerns raised, it is essential to acknowledge that names can change in meaning and connotation over the years.

“Altering the street name would greatly impact residents and the council long term with endless administrative changes and potential financial costs.”

Five submissions from community members were in favour of the change, with one writing “a racial slur is a racial slur even if a tree is named after it. As much as I loved the sound of the name, it has to go.”

In November, following community consultation, the council’s director of infrastructure services Phillip Holloway recommended in a report that the crescent’s name be changed “on the basis that there is more lasting value (however difficult to measure) in trying to minimise the type of hurt this particular name could cause some people over the long term, over the value in avoiding the (largely short run) costs to Hottentot Crescent residents who oppose the change.”

Several residents objected to changing the name of Hottentot Crescent, Mullumbimby. Picture: Google Maps.
Several residents objected to changing the name of Hottentot Crescent, Mullumbimby. Picture: Google Maps.

“Generally speaking, the submission arguments for retaining the current street name were based on the name referring solely to a tree species. Doubtless there are many residents in the area and within the Byron Shire more broadly who are unaware of the name containing any other meaning beyond naming the relevant tree,” he wrote.

“Against this, the resident opposing the name argues that the tree name itself is racially loaded (whether this is broadly understood or not), because it is linked to the South African first nations people group the subject of the slur – the Khoisan people – who used the tree for food during South Africa’s colonisation.”

Mr Holloway acknowledged the name change would “come at an administrative and convenience cost to residents of Hottentot Crescent in the short term” but said such costs should be balanced against “the hurt caused to people impacted by racially loaded language; even in an instance like this where the difficulties associated with the name have their origin some way from 2023 Mullumbimby, where the road name doesn’t “speak” directly to anyone, and where people use the name in good faith only for the purpose of naming a tree.”