The Battle for Baromee

By dougk, 18 November, 2017

This is not a story about the army take-over of our peninsular. Those events are however mentioned in the book about our village – which is of course a great gift option for family and friends! Instead, this is a story about the past efforts of the local community to change the name of our village.

The two neighbouring villages to our east, Bundabah and Pindimar, bear names of Aboriginal origin. In 1983, the North Arm Cove community felt that our village too should be known by the Aboriginal name for the area: “Baromee”. But as the community was about to discover, changing a name is no easy task.

In October 1983 the Association Secretary wrote to Council advising of the community's wishes and seeking advice on the procedures necessary to initiate this change. Council “appreciated the Association's view” but resolved that the name remain as North Arm Cove.

Undeterred by Council's negative response, the Association President, Steve Colvin, sought advice from the Geographical Names Board of NSW. This body had been set up in 1966 to be the official arbiter of names of places and geographical names in the state. Most place names that had previously commenced with East, West, North or South were either renamed or had that direction placed at the end of the name. For example North Kurrajong became Kurrajong North.

As the Board explained in their December response to the Association, of the dozen names that had begun with the words “North Arm” all bar two had been renamed with its own particular name. North Arm Clarence River however had in that October been renamed simply as “North Arm”. And our village along with the adjacent waterway remained as North Arm Cove.

Forty two people turned up to the January 1984 meeting to unanimously agree that the name should be changed to its original name of Baromee. The Secretary wrote back to the Board asking for advice on the actions necessary to put this into effect.

The Board replied promptly noting that it considered Baromee a concise name and that it was prepared to consider the name change if there was evidence that the majority of local residents wished it. It noted however that it always seeks the views of the local Council and that it would be an advantage if the application had Council's support.

In February, a petition signed by 103 local residents was forwarded to the Board but this time there was no prompt response. A follow up letter was sent in April but the explanation for the delay did not come back from the Board until the end of May.

The Board believe that your application has some merit, but before proceeding on this matter the views of the Great Lakes Shire Council have been sought.

Follow up letters continued until in October the Council wrote to the Board saying:

The Council can see no reason why a suitable, well established name should be changed and associated costs incurred.

Clearly the wishes of a local community did not constitute a “reason” that mattered to Council.

Council's letter to the Board concluded somewhat bizarrely: “It would also seem unusual for Council to have to justify the retention of an existing name.”

The Council's unsupportive response left the Board with little option.

At its meeting on 10th December 1984 the Board gave careful consideration to the circumstances surrounding this matter. However it was resolved by the Board that the change of name not be approved.

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