Street names story turns to saga

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

The wish of Lhere Artepe Enterprises (LAE) to honour traditional owners by naming streets after them in the Mt Johns subdivision has back-fired, or at least stalled. The commercial arm of the native title holders body, LAE, proposed the names “Werlatye” and “Irrampenye” for two new streets, which the Alice Springs Town Council, after some resistance, approved.

According to council’s first lot of meeting papers, the names were after traditional owners born in the mid-19th century near where the Old Telegraph Station came to be built. In a later explanation, councillors were told that ‘Werlatye’ means ‘woman’ in Arrernte, and ‘Irrampenye’, man, with the names referring to the ancestors of the present day senior custodians and traditional owners.

Since publicity on the matter, council has received a number of phone calls, suggesting that the names are “offensive” to traditional owners, says CEO Rex Mooney. Comments to this website have also suggested this (tending to blame council, somewhat unfairly).

Council has now written to the Territory’s Place Names Committee, pointing to the concerns. No action will be taken until the issues are clarified, says Mr Mooney.

The Alice Springs News Online asked LAE if they consulted anybody before proposing the names. Sally McMartin, speaking on behalf of the board, said yes, they had. To the best of her knowledge the names are those of “two original people in that country around the Telegraph Station”.  She expressed surprise at the controversy that has arisen.

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Meanwhile, in other council news, Mr Mooney and Mayor Damien Ryan have attended the AGM of the Outback Highway Development Committee, held in Boulia, Queensland this week. This follows Mayor Ryan’s recent participation in two days of lobbying in Canberra in support of the project – “a strategic project that needs strategic funding”  and that “will never be built on votes”, he said.

Getting financial support for the project will be one of the items on council’s agenda when it meets with the new Territory government, says Mr Mooney.

The cost of sealing the route from Winton in Queensland  to Laverton in Western Australia is estimated at $540m. The committee is seeking a minimum of $25m a year from the Federal Government and will want to match that with a commitment from the combined states and councils affected by the route.

This would allow the highway’s construction “to proceed in an orderly manner”, says Mr Mooney.

Funding the further redevelopment of Todd Mall will also be something that council will be wanting the new government to address, says Mr Mooney. While Labor had committed $2.5m for that work (deemed entirely inadequate by the Mayor), the Country Liberals made no such promise.

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