The mayor of the northern New South Wales town of Coonabarabran says those pushing for a change to the town’s name to avoid a ‘racist’ connotation do not realise that adopting a new name would be more bigoted than keeping the current one.
The name of the town, often shortened by locals to ‘Coona’, had come into focus after Saputo Dairy Australia changed the name of its famous Coon cheese brand, as coon is also an old racial slur directed toward black people.
There were already plans to rename Coon Island near Newcastle for the same reason.
However Coonabarabran mayor Ambrose Doolan said the name of his town was an Aboriginal term, and therefore it would be a racist insult in itself if it was renamed.
Mayor Ambrose Doolan (pictured) believes the name change for the brand is an overreaction and that he will not be pressured by the public to do the same because the name comes from an Indigenous heritage
Mr Doolan told Daily Mail Australia that the name is taken from the Kamilaroi language.
‘It’s been the name of the Kamilaroi language for a very long time,’ he said.
The town’s name Coonabarabran descends from the Indigenous word for ‘inquisitive person.’
He previously found the meaning in multiple Royal Historical Society journals dated back to the 1920’s.
‘That’s what I’ve always known it to mean,’ the Mayor said.
Coonabarabran name taken from the Kamilaroi language and has been stated in various Royal Historical Society journals (pictured) dated back to the 1920’s
The journals confirm what Mayor Doolan has said. Pictured: meaning of Coonabarabran from a journal of the 1920’s
In the journals, it confirms that the name Coonabarabran to have indigenous heritage.
‘Coonabarabran (Wallerawang-Gwabegar): After name of pastoral holding. An aboriginal word meaning ‘An inquisitive person.’,’ it read in a section explaining the meaning of railway station in NSW.
As a result, Mayor Doolan has said that he will not change the town’s name.
‘There’s no offence to be found once you know the history of the place,’ he said.
‘It’s been the name for so long, it’s no longer indigenous history but a shared history that everyone is proud off,’ Mayor Ambrose Doolan (pictured) said
‘You wouldn’t do that (change the name) because that is who we are,’ he said.
‘It’s been the name for so long, it’s no longer indigenous history but a shared history that everyone is proud off.’
The popular 86-year-old Coon cheese brand will become Cheer Cheese from July, Canadian owner Saputo confirmed on Tuesday, sparking a divided reaction.
The much-loved dairy product got its original name from American pioneering cheese processor Edward William Coon, who died in 1934.
Mr Doolan believes the name switch is an overreaction and that he will not change the name of the town, Coonabarabran, which is often shortened to ‘Coona’.
Coon cheese will now be named Cheer (pictured) as the name ‘coon’ is also used as a racial slur
‘It’s another move by cancel culture … an over-reaction. It’s all really silly,’ Mr Doolan told The Daily Telegraph.
‘We won’t change the name of our town.’
Aboriginal activists, including academic and former diplomat Dr Stephen Hagan, have spent the past two decades lobbying to have the cheese brand name changed as the word ‘coon’ is a slur against people of colour.
The decision to ditch its well-recognised but controversial brand last year followed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide.
The owner announced its decision last year to ‘retire’ the name of Australia’s best loved cheese because of its historical use as a racist slur.
However, Mr Doolan said that he has never received complaints about the town’s name and is not about to change it as a result of Saputo’s decision.
Mr Doolan has said that the town’s name Coonabarabran (pictured) has never received complaints on racial grounds