28 September 2023

Indigenous name change an option for Coburg church

St Augustine’s parisioners recognise they were not the first people that God had spoken to. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

4 July 2022

A Coburg church will consider adopting an Indigenous name in line with a local council move this NAIDOC week.

The Moreland City Council decided to change the local government area name because “Moreland” was linked to a history of slavery.

The vote to change the name to “Merri-bek”, a Woi-wurrung word meaning “rocky country” was accepted as NAIDOC week celebrations started.

The theme for this year, Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! reflected a clarion call to keep pushing for positive change for Indigenous people and recognising their contributions.

St Augustine’s Moreland said its parish council would be considering the change and whether to follow suite.

Vicar the Reverend Angela Cook said most of the parish was supportive of the local government’s name change.

Ms Cook said St Augustine’s identified with the natural environment of the creek that was Merri Creek itself, which was a surrounding feature in the area.

“Merri Creek is very much part of our community, and the heartbeat of the local area, not just the church community. So, I think ‘Merri-bek’ will really reflect that we’re wanting to be a church of the community, and a church that reaches out to that community,” she said.

But Ms Cook said the church had been on a path of renewal for four or five years.

Read more: Climate action, constitutional voice vital to effective change: Indigenous leaders

She said the church sometimes incorporated the Wurundjeri translation of a hymn that used to be sung at a mission along the Yarra River into their services.

She said that had prompted St Augustine’s parishioners to think about where they had come from and to recognise the traditional custodians of the land on which they gathered.

She said the church wanted to honour the fact that they were not the first people who lived there and were not the first people that God had spoken to.

But Ms Cook said NAIDOC week was also significant for her because it had grown from the “Coming of the Light” celebration, in which the good news of Jesus was adopted by the people of the Torres Strait Islands.

“In terms of hope and light, I think it’s really important to acknowledge the catastrophic pain and violence thar has been done to Indigenous people. But then we also need to look forward and see how we can honour and encourage and hear those voices when we’re moving forward,” Ms Cook said.

She said although there were no Indigenous parishioners at St Augustine’s that she was aware of, she was guided by the material of Christian movement Common Grace to help give space to and engage with Indigenous voices.

Common Grace said that this year they were encouraging people to be part of celebrating Aboriginal culture, stories and history by recognising the contributions of Christian leaders.

These included leaders of historical and contemporary significance such as Aunty Pearl Gibbs and Uncle Ray Minniecon.

They also urged people to attending local NAIDOC week events and engage with their community.

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