Batman conversations

Learn about past consultations on renaming some places in Darebin, including Batman Park in Northcote and the Federal electoral division of Batman.

In the spirit of truth-telling and justice for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Council resolved from 2016 onwards to consult with the community with support from the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and waters now known as Darebin (the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people) on renaming some places in Darebin, commencing with Batman Park in Northcote and the Federal electoral division of Batman.

Renaming Batman Park

In 2016 and 2017, with support from Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders from the Wurundjeri Tribal Land Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council ("Wurundjeri Council" at the time - now Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation - "Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Corporation"), we held four community consultations to highlight the many connections of this area with local Aboriginal heritage and history and to hear the broader community's feedback on the idea of renaming.

Following extensive community consultation, the City of Darebin formally endorsed "Gumbri" as the preferred name for Batman Park.

The name Gumbri was endorsed by the Wurundjeri Council.

Gumbri, also known as Jessie Hunter, was a much loved and respected Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder. Her name means "white dove" in Woi-wurrung, the traditional language of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people. She was the last girl born on the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve in Healesville and she had a great passion for Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people and Country with a special interest in bush foods and medicines.

Overall, the community expressed:

  • A positive response to the potential renaming of Batman Park to recognise the Traditional Owners and custodians
  • A high level of respect for the experience and wisdom of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders
  • Support for constitutional recognition, recognition of Traditional Owners, truth-telling and justice, and a potential treaty
  • A high level of interest in accessing local places and spaces to learn more about the Aboriginal history, living culture, spirituality and heritage of Darebin
  • A desire to retain the visibility of Batman in some form within the park, keeping all layers of history visible and ensuring continued and respectful acknowledgement of the past.

Outcome of statutory process for renaming Batman Park to Gumbri Park

Update as of 17 July 2018

The final process for name change was a submission to the Office of Geographic Names (OGN) as part of the statutory process set out under the Geographical Place Naming Act 1988.

Council received a formal response from the Office of Geographic Names. While the OGN acknowledged both the Wurundjeri Council and the support of the community to recognise Jessie Hunter (Gumbri), the proposal was not approved under the existing naming rules for places in Victoria. The Office indicated they would be supportive of Batman Park being renamed and recommended that Council seek to adopt an alternative name. Council will look at renaming options moving forward in consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Corporation.

Our submission can be viewed on the Office of Geographic Names website.

What does this mean for the name of Batman Park?

Despite the outcome of statutory process, we remain committed to renaming of the park and will continue to engage with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Corporation and the Darebin community in the planning, design and implementation of permanent signage for the main park entry. The process will consider feedback provided during the earlier community conversations.

The renaming is more than just a replacement of one name with another. In the spirit of truth-telling and justice for Aboriginal people, the City of Darebin, the 'Wurundjeri Council' and the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee are committed to ensuring that the life and legacy of John Batman is still visible in the park alongside the multiple stories and histories of the park that enhance our city.

For the time being, we have removed the Batman Park archway following recent damage to the sign. The sign has been removed to protect it from further damage, ensure the area surrounding the entrance is safe to pedestrians and to ensure its safekeeping for possible future use within the park once the proposed park renaming is approved.

This project is currently on hold.

Renaming the Federal Electorate of Batman

The federal electorate of Batman was created in 1906, replacing the Division of Northern Melbourne. Batman was located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and stretched through three local government areas: Yarra, Darebin and Whittlesea (Yarra and Darebin made up the majority of the division).

It took in Alphington, Clifton Hill, Fairfield, Kingsbury, Northcote, Preston, Reservoir and Thornbury, and parts of Bundoora, Coburg North, Macleod and Thomastown. It covered an area of approximately 66 square kilometres from Thomastown and Bundoora in the north to Clifton Hill in the south, with Merri Creek providing the vast majority of the western boundary, and the eastern boundary provided by Darebin Creek, parts of Macleod and Plenty Road in Bundoora.

Of the 37 federal electoral divisions in Victoria, nine are named in Aboriginal languages: Ballarat, Corangamite, Corio, Indi, Jaga Jaga, Kooyong, Mallee, Maribyrnong, and Wannon.

In November 2017, the City of Darebin, together with the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council and Yarra City Council, lodged a joint submission calling for the renaming of the Federal Electorate of Batman to the federal electorate of Simon Wonga.

Update as at 20 June 2018

The augmented Electoral Commission for Victoria has announced the outcome of its deliberations on the names and boundaries of the 38 federal electoral divisions in Victoria, see Redistribution Committee's recommendations. Following deliberation, written objections and comments as well as information presented at the inquiries in Winchelsea and Melbourne which the City of Darebin attended, the Electoral Commission unanimously agreed to rename the Division of Batman to recognise William Cooper. The names and boundaries of of the federal electoral divisions for Victoria will apply from Friday 13 July 2018.

We welcome the Electoral Commission’s decision to rename the federal electoral Division of Batman to Cooper. This is a landmark decision, showing that at a national level, we are recognising our First Nations people.

Read our document about renaming the Federal Electoral Division of Batman(PDF, 121KB) for more information on our position.

William Cooper

Mr Cooper was a spokesman for Aboriginal people who, as secretary of the Australian Aborigines League, presented a petition and led deputations to authorities, calling for direct representation in parliament, enfranchisement, land rights and federal control of Aboriginal affairs.

In 1938, Mr Cooper lodged a personal protest against the treatment of European Jews in Nazi Germany following Kristallnacht.

See the AEC website for details on the redistribution outcomes and for electoral redistribution timeframes.

The City of Darebin does not have the authority to change the name of the Batman electorate - the AEC has sole responsibility for this decision.

Why did we want to change the name of the electorate of Batman?

The renaming of the electorate of Batman reflects the spirit and intent of our Aboriginal Action Plan and our commitment to reconciliation, building on work between us and the Aboriginal communities connected to Darebin.

Our work in this area shows respect for Traditional Owners and custodians, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people, acknowledges our shared history and recognises the land as vital to Aboriginal communities’ cultural, spiritual and physical identity.

Read our position on why the name of Batman should not be retained(PDF, 58KB) for the federal electorate.

We will continue to explore opportunities to recognise Simon Wonga in recognition and out of respect to the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders, who originally proposed that the electorate be named after this respected leader.

More information

If you have any comments, questions about the project or some information to share, please contact us.

Equity and Diversity
Phone: 03 8470 8888