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Why Aussie outback road sign is dividing opinion

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·2-min read

An outback sign has divided opinion online after an unknown graffiti artist took to it with white paint.

The sign in Central Australia, pointing to Alice Springs in one direction and Hermannsberg in the other, was defaced by the vandal who crossed out both towns and replaced them with their traditional Indigenous names.

Mparntwe was written above the crossed out Alice Springs, and Ntaria above Hermansburg. On the black and white warning sign beneath was the acronym ACAB, a term widely known to mean "All Cops Are Bastards".

Debate surged after an image of the sign, taken by Instagram user ronisconi in June last year, was uploaded to popular Indigenous education page Common Ground Australia on Friday.

This sign was defaced and an image of it was uploaded to a popular Facebook group on Friday. Source: Instagram/ronisconi
This sign was defaced and an image of it was uploaded to a popular Facebook group on Friday. Source: Instagram/ronisconi

"Across Australia there is a growing movement of reclaiming traditional place names in First Nations languages. This is a sign from Central Australia that highlights the original place names over colonial place names," a post on the page read.

"Alice Springs is known to Arrernte people as Mparntwe, and Hermansburg is known to Western Aranda communities as Ntaria."

The page argued the placement of traditional names in conversation, on signs and any other references is an "amazing step towards recognising the sovereignty First Nations people still hold across Australia".

"When we recognise and embed language, we centre First Nations people, culture and Country," the post read.

While many agreed with the message, some were not convinced that defacing street signs was a good step towards reconciliation.

"I applaud the spirit of the action, however I feel the crossing out of euro names spoils the message," one person responded.

Others were in favour of signs being graffitied with traditional names in all Australian towns, while some called on councils to include both names.

"I honestly think this should be done for all towns that have the colonial place names," one wrote.

"Both english and indigenous names should be on all place names when possible. A lot of countries have more than one language so helps people identify easier," another said.

Debate over the sign comes days after it was revealed the racist name of an idyllic Aussie suburb was set to change.

Lake Macquarie Council tweeted on Monday after a meeting that it had decided to now hold community consultations to determine alternative names for Coon Island and Coon Island Point.

Cr Baker told news.com.au earlier this week the name is “very offensive” .

“Herbert Heaney was a white guy who worked in coal mines and would come out with coal dust on his face and got the nickname ‘coon’; it’s just not appropriate in this day and age,” he tweeted.

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