‘How ridiculous’: NSW’s Coon Island to be renamed over racism claims

Jul 28, 2021
NSW's Coon Island is getting a name change. Source: A Current Affair/Facebook

Coon Island and Coon Point in the New South Wales Hunter region will be renamed Pirrita Island and Miners Point after it was labelled “genuinely racist and … hurtful” by local councillors.

On Monday night, councillors at Lake Macquarie City Council voted 8-5 to rename the island, which is located in Swansea 25 kilometres south of Newcastle, in spite of a public feedback survey that found more than half of locals wanted the name to remain.

According to an ABC News report, the area got its name from Herbert Greta Heaney, nicknamed ‘Coon’, who was the first person to live there in 1915. “It is widely thought he was given the moniker because he was a coal miner who would often return from work with black coal dust on his face,” the news site wrote.

The word ‘coon’ is an extremely offensive slur when used to describe a black person.

The motion was put forward by Liberal councillor Kevin Baker who said, “Coon Island was a name that was genuinely racist and genuinely hurtful to a lot of people in our community”.

He continued: “It was a name that stopped people within our community from being able to enjoy what is a beautiful part of the world and it was not in line with community expectations.

“This outcome, renaming the places Pirrita Island and Miners Point, balances the recognition of the European history of the island and the significant contribution miners have had to our area, but also the 60,000-plus years of Indigenous history that the places have.”

The name change, however, hasn’t sat well with many Aussies, with one social media user commenting: “So the council sort community consultation and chose to ignore it … seems as though they had their minds made up from the beginning.

Another added: “I would have thought there are far more pressing issues at the moment than taking offence to the name of somewhere.”

A third commented: “How ridiculous. The island never needed to be changed in the first place.”

Others applauded the name change, with one declaring “[It’s] about time”. Another commented: “Great awesome to see about time. I grew up near Swansea and I hated the name.” While a third wrote: “It’s offensive and about time it was changed.”

Meanwhile, one jokingly wrote, “Call it Cheer Island”, making reference to Coon cheese’s rebrand. In January this year, the makers of Coon cheese announced the popular Aussie cheese will be renamed ‘Cheer Cheese’. The decision followed a wave of calls to scrap the name, which has long been criticised as racist, despite being named after American inventor Edward William Coon, who patented a unique ripening process that was used to manufacture the original cheese.

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