The Victorian government has fast-tracked the rollout of its school naming policy, announcing 14 new government schools will be given Indigenous-language names when they open next year.
The change comes after the part of the Department of Education changed its School and Campus Naming Policy to prioritise the consideration of local Aboriginal cultural heritage and names.
It is part of the Andrews government’s effort to ensure better recognition and representation of Aboriginal culture and language across the state in its wider efforts to action the Treaty and Truth elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Minister for Education Natalie Hutchins announced the names of the 14 new schools, as well as the names of four new kindergartens on school sites, during a visit to the newly named Yarrabing Secondary College – formerly known as Aintree Secondary School – on Monday.
Yarrabing (pronounced yarra-bing) is a Woi-wurrung word of the Wurundjeri people meaning “white gum”, and was drawn from a short-list made by Traditional Owner groups.
The names of the other schools and kindergartens include words from Woi-wurring, as well as Bunurong and Wadawarrung languages.
Other new names include Laa Yulta Primary School in Black Forest, named with the Wadawurrung word meaning “many stones”; Walcom Ngarrwa Secondary College in Werribee, named with the Wadawurrung words meaning “steps to knowledge”; and Brinbeal Secondary College in Riverdale, from the Bunurong word meaning “rainbow”.
The names of the four new kindergartens on school sites will be Laa Yulta Primary School Kindergarten, Wimba Primary School Kindergarten (from the Bunurong word meaning “wallaby”), Warreen Primary School Kindergarten (from the Bunurong word meaning “wombat”) and Murnong Kindergarten (from the Woi-wurrung word for a native yam daisy).
A full list of the translation of the Indigenous school names can be found on the Victorian government website.
Ms Hutchins said in a statement the new schools will ensure “growing communities have a great local education for their kids and a unique connection to the land through their Indigenous names”.
The state education department’s policy was initially changed in March 2022 with new requirements to include mandatory consultation with Traditional Owner groups.
Under the changes, Aboriginal language names would be proposed, and the education minister will select them for new state schools and campuses. If a First Nations name cannot be agreed upon, the Minister would choose another name.
In March 2023, Ms Hutchins announced further changes to the policy to ensure that “only Traditional Owner groups will propose Aboriginal language names, with all new government schools and campuses to have proposed names preferenced, in an initiative to further promote Aboriginal self-determination”.
Under the policy, all new Victorian state schools and campuses opening from 2025 onwards will have a First Nations language name in a bid to promote Aboriginal self-determination, language, and culture across the state.
According to the Victorian School Building Authority website, at least nine new schools will be opening in 2025 and 2026 with Indigenous names.
According to The Age,13 new Victorian state schools were given an Indigenous language name earlier this year – 11 new schools and two renamed – as well as two new campuses. No Catholic schools had an Indigenous name.
Worawa Aboriginal College, Victoria’s only Aboriginal-run school, is named after an Indigenous word for “eagle”.
Ingrid Stitt, Victoria’s Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-prep, said in a statement, “We are so proud that our new kinder names reflect the land that they are on – and help our littlest learners understand the role First Nations Victorians play in our heritage and history”.
The 14 new names were chosen in collaboration with Geographic Names Victoria and Traditional Owner groups and after a two-week community consultation process, which received 7000 submissions.