Gladstone Regional Council has confirmed they will not change a South Gladstone street of the same name.
Gladstone Regional Council has confirmed they will not change a South Gladstone street of the same name.

Indigenous elder’s surprise over other meanings of 'Coon'

A STREET in Central Queensland with the same name as a cheese has surprised an elder after council suggested other meanings for the word.

Earlier this week, dairy products company Saputo confirmed they will rename Coon cheese after activists campaigned the name had racist connotations.

The news was quickly shared across the nation.

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Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said council has no plans to rename Coon Street.

"Gladstone Town Council's Valuation Register, dated 1899, provides the earliest known reference to Coon Street," Cr Burnett said.

Cr Burnett said Coon, which sounds like gung/kung, means water in the traditional languages of Gladstone.

"The word 'Coon' is said to be an Aboriginal word for Dragonfly," he said.

"Aboriginal people throughout the continent name living creatures after their natural environment, representative of their deep connection to country.

"It can be easy to mispronounce 'ng' as an 'n', and the spelling was changed by someone with English as their mother tongue to the word 'coon'."

Goreng Goreng Aboriginal Elder Richard Johnson said in 1999 he was told Coon St was named after a man, and had not heard of the dragonfly reference before.

 

Goreng Goreng Aboriginal Elder, Richard Johnson. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
Goreng Goreng Aboriginal Elder, Richard Johnson. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer

"My conversations with council at the time was that they named it after a specific person, it's not in my nature to pick on anyone about their name, I would hate anyone to do it to me," he said.

"If (council now) want to make it look like they've done the right thing I don't mind that, but at the end of the day I've never heard (dragonfly) before."

Mr Johnson said the name was not racist but didn't believe it was the right word either.

"What if there is a person who name is Coon, whether it was spelt Coon or Kuhn...it could be anything, I think they're pulling at straws," he said.

"I don't think in any way it was meant to be racist."

Mr Johnson said he didn't find the cheese brand offensive either.

Mr Johnson said council was doing a great job at reconciling the community.

"Under Matt Burnett the council in place is a lot further along the road to a reconciled community," he said.

"(Council is) 250 per cent ahead of what it used to be."



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