Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Australian Placenames of Indigenous Origin

Second circular and program

A one-day colloquium on Australian Placenames of Indigenous Origin will be held at the premises of the SA Geographical Names Committee (Building 2, 300 Richmond Road, Netley, SA 5037) on Saturday 8th April, 2000. The event is jointly sponsored by the Australian National Placenames Survey and the Committee for Geographical Names in Australasia, and is the second in a series designed to bring together academic researchers in toponymy, Aboriginal languages, ethnography, history, and geography with representatives of the nomenclature authorities responsible for maintaining records about the existence and derivation of placenames and determining new or revised official placenames.

The proposed timetable is as follows:

Session 1 (Chair: Flavia Hodges, ANPS)

8.45 — 9.00 Welcome and introductions

9.00 — 9.30 Jane Simpson, University of Sydney

Characteristics of Australian Indigenous placenames
[Abstract to follow)

9.30 — 10.00 Peter Sutton, freelance consultant

Placenames of the Wik region, Cape York Peninsula
Intensive on-ground cultural mapping of the Wik region by several anthropologists, often working in teams with groups of locally knowledgeable people, has since 1969 produced a large database of sites numbering in the low thousands, with substantial parallel data on many, including placename translations (or equally opaque equivalents) in different languages and, where possible, English. In some areas site names clearly retain archaic or predecessor language forms, with possible implications for estate tenure histories. The proportion of names which are partly or wholly untranslatable is quite high, as also is the proportion of translatable names with local environmental bases (plant and animal names, features, etc). The fact that local names of often very great cultural richness are sometime exchanged for trite or meaningless English names, and seemingly with some alacrity, is puzzled over.
10.00 —10.30 Rob Amery, University of Adelaide Weeding out spurious etymologies: toponyms on the Adelaide Plains

Published or commonly known etymologies of Indigenous placenames are often vague or fanciful. Several competing etymologies may have been given for the one name, sometimes drawn from the same language or perhaps from several different languages. Using evidence from the Adelaide Plains this paper attempts to establish means for weeding out spurious etymologies using philological methods and morphological, comparative and typological criteria. In the final analysis, however, the true etymology of many placenames is difficult, it not impossible to recover.

10.30 — 11.00 Stephen Houston, University of Adelaide Working on the Kaurna Placenames and Naming Activity Database

The University of Adelaide’s Linguistics Department has begun building a database for researching Kaurna language reconstruction data, and to collate and analyse data on naming activities including toponymy. The South Australian Geographical Names Committee’s gazetteer data is currently in place and ready for analysis. But rather than simply accessing data from established databases, the challenge this project faces is to collect, manage and analyse a broader variety of data. The orthographic script commonly associated with placenames data will eventually be joined by audio and images providing a greater breadth of indigenous cultural markers. However, processing data of this kind becomes complicated.

11.00 — 11.30 Morning Tea

Session 2 (Chair: Rob Amery, University of Adelaide)

11.30 — 12.00 Philip Jones, South Australian Museum

Placenames on the Hillier map of north-eastern SA

Few examples of opposing perceptions of Australian landscape are more striking than in north-eastern South Australia, where the explorers’ image of a ‘dead heart’ both masks and enhances that of a rich Aboriginal mythscape. During the half century from 1866-1915 the space between these perceptions was mediated by attempts of the Killalpaninna missionaries to map and name the topography which framed their doomed enterprise. Their efforts yielded three remarkable records: a map of 2,368 placenames, a corresponding gazetteer, and 400 intriguing placename ‘sculptures’ — the toas of Killalpaninna. This paper will explore the significance and interrelationship of those records.12.00 — 12.30 Steve Hemming, [affiliation]


[Abstract to follow]

12.30 — 1.00 Bill Watt, SA Geographical Names Committee

The role of the nomenclature authorities

[Abstract to follow]

1.00 — 2.00 Lunch

Session 3 (Chair: Bill Watt, SA Geographical Names Committee)

2.00 — 2.30 Tamsin Donaldson, Freelance consultant

 Naming the ngurram-paa (the ‘camp-world’)

My grammar of Ngiyampaa began with a map of what my teachers called their ngurram-paa, their ‘camp-world’, their country, captioned ‘the area within which they were born and for which they know placenames’ (1980). This paper presents these names and shows how they both reflected and shaped their and their ancestors’ ‘camp-world’. It draws also on 1960s accounts recorded by Jeremy Beckett and examines, through my teachers’ responses, an early list of local place-names and their meanings (Cameron:1899). Some of the Ngiyampaa names were taken into English, sometimes with a succession of forms and/or references, and some of the coloniser’s new names were taken into Ngiyampaa.

2.30 — 4.00 Open discussion Suggested topics include the desirability and practicalities of renaming -- to recognise Indigenous placenames and/or eliminate offensive Introduced placenames; dual naming; placenaming and the reconciliation process; Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights  4.00 - Afternoon tea

Nearby accommodation options include:

Adelaide International Motel Buffalo Inn
521 Anzac Highway, Glenelg North 766 Anzac Highway, Glenelg
08 8356 8388 08 8294 6244

From $54 single, $58 twin From $70

Patawalong Motor Inn Taft Motor Inn
Adelphi Terrace, Glenelg North 18 Mosley Square, Glenelg
08 8294 2122 08 8376 1233

From $82 From $82 single, $89 twin

Could all those wishing to attend please confirm with Flavia Hodges, Department of English, Macquarie University, NSW 2109 (; phone 02 9859 7937; fax 02 9850 8240) by Monday 3 April.

A charge of around $20 (payable on the day) will be made to cover the cost of lunch and refreshments.

Page by Flavia Hodges

Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Australian Placenames of Indigenous Origin 8 April 2000

Date created: 21 March 2000
Last modified: 21 March 2000