Check the map for what's in a name

Have you ever contemplated the origins of your street name or the name given to your suburb? Who was Curtin? What’s a currong? Is there an Indigenous cultural connection to your street name?

As the Nation’s Capital, our street names and suburbs represent a magnificent mosaic, a rich tapestry of Australia’s local and national achievers. Through these place names we can reflect on our cultural heritage, our geography, our natural history.

Some of the people commemorated are well known while others have left their legacy as quiet achievers. Our Indigenous cultural heritage is commemorated, reflected in the bush capital’s inspiring place names.

Standing the test of time as a policy setting, in 1927  the Canberra National Memorials Committee proposed to the Commonwealth Parliament that all place names should follow a predetermined criteria. Most suburbs are named after famous Australians and streets in each suburb have a theme. The new suburb of Whitlam commemorates ‘arts and culture’.

In September 1928, Parliament published a gazette that explained the origins and significance of the first place names to be determined under this scheme. The gazette kept the names of Aboriginal places identified as having an association with the local area including Narrabundah and Yarralumla, allocated names to areas already settled, such as Acton, Ainslie and Forrest, and named undeveloped suburbs including Deakin, Dickson and Fyshwick.

Exactly 90 years have passed and this remarkable policy has continued. The name of every suburb, street, bridge and park across the bush capital is considered by the ACT Place Names Committee.

The recording of place names has advanced over the 90 years. The original paper-based system as published gazettes moved to printed pamphlets in the 1970s and books on suburban road names in 1992. The technology then moved online, with the latest upgrade seeing the digital search facility move to the interactive maps in ACTmapi.

ACTmapi is a remarkable interactive mapping service for the public that provides a convenient way to access an amazing amount of spatial data. Think basic city maps, development applications, threatened species, heritage, education, wind, aircraft noise. And now, place names.

An online tutorial will help you get the most from your ACTmapi experience and open a world of mapping wonder. Check ACTmapi out and see who or what your street or suburb was named for or search for someone you know. At a click you can discover information from our past right through to our latter-day heroes. You may also discover a family connection.

By the way, currong is an Aboriginal word for Silver Wattle.

To glean more visit ACTmapi viewer

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 2 October 2018 in The Chronicle