Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council is "really, really happy" with the decision to change the name of Coon Island and see it as a chance to move forward.
Lake Macquarie Council will submit an application to the Geographical Names Board (GNB) to rename Coon Island and Coon Island Point to Pirrita Island and Miners Point respectively after the matter was passed at Monday's meeting.
Coon Island is said to be named after Herbert Heaney who lived on the island and either came home from the mines with soot on his face or spent a lot of time fishing so was very tanned.
Bahtabah LALC acting CEO Kentan Proctor said he was pleased with the decision to change the "derogatory" name.
"We're really happy with outcome," he said. "Everyone has to move forward and understand the term was quite derogatory."
Mr Proctor said the backlash towards the name change had been hurtful to the Aboriginal community.
"The issue itself coming to light has been harsh," he said. "It's hurtful how much prolific racism is around."
The question arose when council first planned improvement works for Coon Island as to whether it was timely to revisit previous concern expressed about the name.
Council recently held community consultation about the name, which resulted in 2120 responses with 56 per cent not in favour of a change.
But 86 per cent of those who wanted the name change said they found the name offensive.
The report said due to the outcome of stakeholder consultation meetings, along with the significant community members finding the name offensive, "the current place names warrant reviewing under the GNB's Offensive Place Names fact sheet", which requires the GNB, council, community and Local Aboriginal Land Council to work together to identify a new place name.
"Fifty-six per cent of respondents said no and yet it looks like this council may say 'but we don't really care about that, we're going to do what we like anyway'," councillor Jason Pauling said.
"When this matter first came up I made reference that I feared sham consultation... this looks like, an awful lot like, sham consultation."
Mayor Kay Fraser warned Cr Pauling about making comments relating to staff after several points of order from councillor Barney Langford, but Cr Pauling remained heavily critical of the process.
"What was the magic number? Was 60 per cent enough, 70 per cent against, 80 per cent against, 90 per cent against? It's all hypothetical, but personally Madam Mayor, I don't think it matters. I think we made up our mind before this happened," Cr Pauling said.
Councillors Colin Grigg and John Gilbert also raised concerns with the process.
Cr Grigg took issue with the five names each chosen for the island and point that formed the basis of the consultation. The names were chosen following consultation between council, the GNB, aboriginal organisations and the Heaney family.
"I would like to see a little more community consultation," Cr Grigg said.
Cr Gilbert said he had not seen "real evidence... that this is actually a name that comes from a racial slur".
"People around here who call Coon Island Coon Island or Coonie are not racist," he said.
"I think there's been a great deal of offence that they have felt, we've talked about offence, but they have felt by the fact there's been grandstanding and publicity that has said that this is a racist name.
"This entire council has been unanimous in supporting Indigenous Australians
"But on this particular motion, I see this as something that has come up as a grandstand, as more of a publicity stunt and I think that causes more problems than good.
"I really think with the Indigenous Australians that I've spoken to just locally and anecdotally they think that the whole thing is an unnecessary issue and event that really shouldn't have come about."
But councillor Wendy Harrison said people against the change should "learn to walk in other people's shoes".
"For so long the white community has made decisions about Indigenous matters without thought for Indigenous people," she said.
"I think I read in the report the Indigenous groups consulted were in favour of the change."
Councillor Kevin Baker said the name of the island was "genuinely racist and genuinely hurtful to a lot of people in our community".
"It was a name that stopped people within our community from being able to enjoy what is a beautiful part of the world and it was not in line with community expectations," he said.
Cr Baker said the motion represented "coming together and a time to heal" while recognising the shared European and Aboriginal history in the names.
"In Aboriginal culture healing after a conflict can only begin with a process of truth-telling," he said.
"I would like to thank the community and all stakeholders for participating in this truth-telling. Now I hope we can move onto the healing."
The motion was approved 8-5.
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