Queensland to rename ‘racist’ mountains

Mount Jim Crow and Mount Wheeler to revert to traditional Aborigine names

Mount Wheeler
Mount Wheeler, one of the two peaks to be renamed by the Queensland state government
(Image credit: Google Street View)

Queensland is to rename two mountains following sustained pressure from Aborigine campaigners.

Mount Jim Crow and Mount Wheeler, on Australia’s east coast, are to revert to the traditional names used by the indigenous Darumbal people before the arrival of European colonists.

As of Friday 18 May, the two peaks will be known as Baga and Gai-i, respectively.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

‘Aunty’ Sally Vea Vea, a Darumbal elder, told the ABC that her community had long wanted to see the traditional names restored to the mountains, which feature in Darumbal mythology and functioned as a historic meeting place for the community.

“It was a place where we had people come from our different clans to organise marriages, exchange weapons, and ceremony,” she said.

The drive to rename the mountains took on a new impetus in 2016, when the region around them was awarded native title - a status given by the Australian government to recognise indigenous rights over traditional tribal lands.

As well as the mountains’ significance to the local indigenous community, campaigners were also concerned about the origins of the westernised names.

Mount Jim Crow appears to have taken its name from a popular 19th-century blackface minstrel character of the same name. The laws used to enforce racial segregation in the US south before the 1960s civil rights movement are commonly referred to as ‘Jim Crow laws’.

The origins of Mount Wheeler are more obscure, but activists have suggested the name could be connected to Frederick Wheeler, a 19th-century police inspector accused of committing atrocities against native people.

Regardless of their origins, Vea Vea said the state government’s decision to return to native nomenclature was an important and necessary gesture for the indigenous community.

“The original names had been that way for 60,000 years but in the last 150 years they were changed,” she said.

Offensive place names imposed by colonists have been an ongoing cause for concern in 21st-century Australia. Last year, Queensland officially stopped recognising ten landmarks in the state using the n-word, including seven streams historically known as ‘N****r Creek’, the Brisbane Times reports.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.