Byron Shire Council to vote on changing name of Hottentot Crescent, Mullumbimby to Moonlight Close

A racist street name in northern NSW is set to go away, but not all residents are happy about it.

Byron Shire councilors will consider a recommendation to change the name of Hottentot Crescent in Mullumbimby to “Moonlight Close” after the council decided to start the name change process for the November half moon at the request of a concerned resident.

While John Simons’ petition to remove the name “Hotentot,” a racial slur in South Africa, has garnered 383 signatures, not all residents and community members support the change.

Last year, 12 submissions from former and current residents to the council opposed the proposal, with one writing that they strongly believed the name Hottentot Crescent should be retained.

“As I understand it, the name of our street was chosen decades ago after a tree, the Hottentot Bean (Schotia Brachypetala). “Never in my time as a resident have I heard anyone associate the name of the street with a racial slur,” the resident wrote.

“While I appreciate the concerns expressed, it is essential to recognize that names can change meaning and connotation over the years.

“Changing the street name would have a long-term impact on residents and the council with endless administrative changes and potential financial costs.”

Five submissions from community members were in favor of the change, with one writing that “a racial slur is a racial slur, even if a tree is named after it. Although I liked the sound of the name, it has to go.’

In November, after community consultation, global director of infrastructure services Phillip Holloway recommended in a report that the name of the crescent be changed “on the basis that there is a more lasting value (however difficult to measure) in trying to reduce the type of damage certain the name may cause too much long-term value of (mostly short-term) cost avoidance to some Hottentot Crescent residents who oppose the change.”

“In general, the submission’s arguments for retaining the current street name were based on the name referring exclusively to the tree species. There are undoubtedly many residents in this area and within Byron Shire wider who are unaware that the name carries any meaning other than that of the appropriate tree,” he wrote.

“In contrast, the resident objecting to the name claims that the very name of the tree is racially charged (whether or not it is widely understood) because it is associated with the South African First Nations group that is the subject of vilification – the Khoisan people – who used the tree for food during the colonization of South Africa.”

Mr. Holloway acknowledged that the name change “will result in administrative and convenience costs to the people of the Hottentot Crescent in the short term,” but said such costs must be balanced against “the harm caused to people affected by racially charged language; even in a case like this, where the problems associated with the name originate somehow in 2023 Mullumbimby, where the name of the road does not ‘speak’ directly to anyone and where people use the name in good faith only for the purposes of naming a tree.”

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