Aussie suburb to be renamed after being labeled ‘truly racist’ by councilors – but some residents who live there aren’t too keen on it
- Lake Macquarie councilors formally voted on name change Monday night
- Liberal councilor Kevin Baker thought the name of the Coon Island suburb was ‘utterly racist’
- Venue named after Herbert Greta Heaney, who was commonly known as ‘Coon’
- Mr Heaney, a miner, was the first resident to live on the island in 1915
A suburb in the NSW Hunter region is about to be renamed after it was labeled as ‘truly racist and hurtful’, with its original name inspired by the dark skin of a local as they ended a service through the coal mines.
A decision was formally taken Monday night by Lake Macquarie councilors to rename Coon Island, located in Swansea, 25km south of Newcastle, in NSW.
The area will now have both an indigenous and non-indigenous name, rather than its long-standing single place.
Coon is a deeply offensive racist slur used to describe black people.
Coon Island (pictured) is named after Herbert Heaney, the first recorded permanent resident on the island in 1915
Coon Island, located in Swansea, 25km south of Newcastle, will be renamed Pirrita Island
According to news.com.au, the Lake Macquarie Council has formally submitted a proposal to the Geographical Names Board to make the island now known as Pirrita Island and to name the adjacent Coon Island Point as Miners Point instead.
Liberal councilor Kevin Baker strongly advocated renaming the island.
“Coon Island was a name that was genuinely racist and genuinely hurtful to many people in our community,” he said.
“It was a name that prevented people within our community from enjoying what is a beautiful part of the world and it was not in line with the expectations of the community.”
However, the renaming of the island was not welcomed by all local residents.
A community consultation by Lake Macquarie Council, which garnered 2,120 responses, saw 56 percent of respondents oppose a possible name change.
Coon Island and Coon Island Point are both named after Herbert Heaney, the first recorded permanent resident on the island in 1915.
He was white and worked underground in the coal mines, and was labeled a ‘coon’ by colleagues after he regularly saw coal dust on his face during a shift.
The Geographical Names Council has yet to approve the new name, but the Council expects this to be a swift process.
The decision to rename Coon Island comes after Coon cheese, named after American cheesemaker Edward Coon, changed its name to Cheer last year due to racist undertones.
The cheese will continue to be available on supermarket shelves across Australia, but under the Cheer name.
Heaney was nicknamed ‘Coon’ by his colleagues because he often has a darker face after a shift in the coal mines (pictured, the island)