News State Victoria News Batman renamed after Aboriginal activist

Batman renamed after Aboriginal activist

batman william cooper
Ged Kearney’s seat will no longer be named after John Batman (left), but William Cooper (centre). Photo: The New Daily/ AAP
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The federal seat of Batman will no longer be named after a controversial colonial figure, honouring Aboriginal activist William Cooper instead.

Labor’s Ged Kearney said she was thrilled to become Member for Cooper instead of Batman, after the Australian Electoral Commission reviewed the names and borders of federal divisions in Victoria.

The seat in Labor heartland – under attack from the Greens in Melbourne’s inner north, covering Thornbury and Preston – will formally change names on July 13.

John Batman was a founder of Melbourne and was allegedly involved in the deadly Black War against Aboriginal Tasmanians in the 1800s.

The seat will now honour Mr Cooper. The Yorta Yorta man sought direct representation in parliament, enfranchisement, land rights and federal control of Aboriginal affairs as secretary of the Australian Aborigines’ League.

He also lodged a personal protest against Nazi murders of European Jews in 1938, the only protest of its kind in the world.

Kimberley Moulton, whose great grandmother was Mr Cooper’s sister, said it was a “significant moment for Koorie Victoria and the country”.

“For me I am incredibly proud that a Yorta Yorta man of such resilience and integrity is honoured in this way,” the curator at Melbourne Museum told The New Daily.

“John Batman was the opposite of what William stood for and to have Uncle William’s legacy acknowledged in this way is another step forward in Aboriginal peoples histories and living culture being celebrated and honoured by this country.”

She said he was a “humanitarian and a leader of his people who wanted justice”.

Ms Kearney welcomed the announcement in a statement on Wednesday.

“By changing the name from Batman to Cooper, we acknowledge the suffering of First Nations peoples caused by colonisation and our future as an inclusive and respectful society.

“I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri elders who have campaigned for a name change for many years and standing strong for the truth to be heard.”

Victorian Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman whose state seat of Northcote overlaps with Batman, said she was “extremely pleased” with the announcement.

Australian Labor, Ms Kearney, Victorian Greens, Darebin Council, Reconciliation Victoria and Booroondara Reconciliation Network all made submissions to the AEC protesting against the name Batman.

Eleven of the state’s 38 federal electoral divisions will now be named after an Aboriginal person or word.

The Division of Corangamite will keep its name, rather than changing to Cox. Melbourne Ports will be renamed Macnamara.

The number of divisions named after women will also increase to five, as well as one division jointly named for a husband and wife.

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