Daily Archives: 17 November 2011

LoSoRhyMo #8: Place names

I’ve recently discovered Luke Pearson’s @Aboriginal oz blog, which I recommend for smart, measured writing about hard subjects.

I stumbled across (not upon) it when doing some research on Massacre Island (also known as Murdering Island) near Narrandera. In a piece on the ‘History Wars‘, Luke takes off on a bit of grim comedy:

MURDERING ISLAND…. “and if you look to your left, you will see Kid Stealing Hill just behind Rape Road, and just after you cross Old Black Bastards Belong On The Other Side of The River Bridge…. which of course was replaced by the New Black Bastards Belong On The Other Side of The River Bridge in 2007. And of course the towns biggest tourist attraction, the Giant Prison Tree, which is still occasionally used just to keep the history alive!”

(It wasn’t until I cut and pasted that that I saw the mention of the Prison Tree, which I would have imagined was as much an invention as the bridges if I hadn’t fortuitously seen Rew Hanks’s linoprint ‘Whispers from the Prison Tree‘ at Watters Gallery last night.)

I can feel my compulsory November sonnet coming on:

Sonnet 8: Some Australian place names
Mount Despair, Cape Tribulation,
Misery in Port, Mount, Beach,
Shipwreck Creek and Desolation
Bay, Point Perilous: names teach
the sufferings, struggles of our past,
recall events and list the cast
of characters (Macquarie, Cook
are everywhere– just have a look).
But some names aren’t on Google Maps:
Massacre Island, Murdering Point,
Poisoned Waterholes Creek.* A Joint
Committee could be formed perhaps
to set things right. Now, sad to say,
My street’s named Look The Other Way.

In haste …

* These are all real places, and I couldn’t see any of them on Google Maps. In the interests of accuracy, I should say that the explanation I heard as a child for Murdering Point, at Kurrimine Beach in Queensland, is that survivors of a shipwreck were murdered by Aboriginal people – no mention was made of any retaliation.