Thurston, Wackettville, or Castletown are the front runners for the new name of Townsville as leaders weigh in on the decision.
Thurston, Wackettville, or Castletown are the front runners for the new name of Townsville as leaders weigh in on the decision.

‘Mayor of Thurston'? City grapples with a naming dilemna

Thurston, Wackettville, or Castletown are the front runners for the new name of Townsville.

As pressure mounts to rename Townsville, Mackay and Gladstone due to the association with blackbirding and slave trading, North Queensland politicians have said changing the name wouldn't fix the past.

A petition, signed by 400 people and lodged with parliament, requested the change after the Queensland Government said it would consider changing the names associated with British aristocrats and politicians who were in favour of slavery.

Captain Robert Towns. Picture: Townsville City Libraries
Captain Robert Towns. Picture: Townsville City Libraries

 

 

Last week, Black Lives Matter graffiti was sprayed across the city and earlier this year the statue of Robert Towns was vandalised with red paint put on the blackbirders hands.

Towns, of which Townsville was named after, was responsible for the forced kidnapping of South Sea islanders to work on the cane farms of North Queensland.

Mackay was named after Captain John Mackay, who conducted multiple blackbirding voyages in the late 1800s.

It would not be the first time a place name was changed in North Queensland. In 2017, Niggers Bounce, which referred to an area west of Charters Towers, was removed by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, along with Mount Nigger, Nigger Head and seven instances of Nigger Creek.

Jonathan Thurston sitting in Prime Minister Scott Morrison's chair in Canberra. Photo – Adam Taylor
Jonathan Thurston sitting in Prime Minister Scott Morrison's chair in Canberra. Photo – Adam Taylor

Mayor Jenny Hill said it could be an example of political correctness gone mad.

"I don't think we should be ashamed (of our city's history) but I do think we should be informed," she said.

"Trying to bury history doesn't change what happened."

Cr Hill welcomes the debate, but added no one had formerly come to raise the issue with Townsville City Council - which was needed for the name chance to proceed.

When asked if becoming the Mayor of Thurston was a good idea, Cr Hill said: "Jonathan (Thurston) is still alive, I don't think he'd want a whole city named after him."

Cr Hill suggested Wackettville might be an idea - named for Lawrence Wackett, the 'father' of the Australian aircraft industry who was born in Townsville.

Castletown has also been floated as a potential name for the town.

Mayor of Townsville Jenny Hill. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Mayor of Townsville Jenny Hill. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Traeger MP Robbie Katter said renaming places was 'cancel culture' at its worst.

"Townsvillians should be deeply concerned - if things keep going down this path, there will be no 'Townsville' and no 'James Cook University'," he said.

"We may end up with the 'North Queensland Cowspeople' too."

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson refused to entertain renaming the city.

He agreed with Cr Hill that the city's past should be acknowledged.

Mr Thompson added that many horrible things had happened in our country's past and the knowledge of that would help build a better future.

Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper said this was an extensive process involved in a change, which included consulting emergency services, Australia Post and the local government.

 

Townsville pioneer Andrew Ball
Townsville pioneer Andrew Ball

OPTIONS

Traditional names - Townsville's First Nations people - the Bindal and Wulgurukaba people.

Botanist Alan Cunningham and Captain Phillip Parker King - first Europeans to record landing in Cleveland Bay

Lawrence Wackett - The farther of the Australian aircraft industry and born in Townsville

John Melton Black - first mayor of Townsville, however was in partnership with Robert Towns

Andrew Ball - was dispatched by Black and Towns to find a suitable port to establish in the north.

William Alfred Ross - Townsville's first publican, but also worked for Towns. The Ross River is named in his honour.

Castletown - named after Castle Hill

 

 

City's and towns they want changed

Townsville - named after Robert Towns - revived blackbirding in Queensland in the late 19th Century

Mackay - named after Captain John Mackay - conducted many blackbirding expeditions through the Pacific and China between 1865 and 1883

Gladstone - named after British Prime Minister William Gladstone - supported the slave trade

Town of McIlwraith, McIlwraith Range - named after three-time Queensland Premier between 1879 and 1893 - tried to annex New Guinea for Queensland to promote easy flow of slave labour, supported the trade

Federal division of Dickson - Brisbane northside seat named after Sir James Dickson, currently held federal MP Peter Dutton - supported the trade of slaves to Queensland

 

 

Originally published as 'Mayor of Thurston' doesn't sit will with Cr Hill

John Melton Black.
John Melton Black.
Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson. Picture: Alix Sweeney


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