Motion: Maroondah Hospital name change
Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (17:10): I move:
That this house:
(1) notes that Maroondah Hospital is named using the Woiwurrung language and is one of very few public places in Victoria using First Nations language for naming conventions;
(2) further notes that ‘Maroondah’ means ‘throwing’ and ‘Maroon’ means ‘leaves’;
(3) condemns the government for its proposal to change the name of Maroondah Hospital to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, thus erasing First Nations language;
and calls on the government to reverse its decision and retain Woiwurrung language in the naming of Maroondah Hospital.
This concerns a really disrespectful decision this government has made just in the last few days to rename a hospital—Maroondah Hospital—that uses Woiwurrung First Nations language for its current name to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. It is one of the very few public places in Victoria that uses First Nations language for naming conventions, and this government wants to erase it, replacing it with the name of a foreign monarch who represented colonisation. This is not what treaty looks like. Astonishingly the Premier yesterday doubled down on this decision rather than if it was a mistake, admitting it and reversing it. And in response to criticism from the First Peoples’ Assembly, effectively told them to stay in their lane.
Mr Rich-Phillips: On a point of order, Acting President, I appreciate that Dr Ratnam does not have long for this motion, but my point of order is that it is actually disorderly to reflect on the monarch, as Dr Ratnam has in her comments about the monarch reflecting colonisation et cetera. I would put to you that it is actually out of order to do so.
Dr RATNAM: Acting President, I am happy to withdraw that sentence if I can proceed.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Bourman): Thank you, Dr Ratnam, but just on that, obviously we just need to be careful about how we reflect on the monarch, because it actually is in the standing orders. But if you are happy to withdraw it unreservedly, we will just go on.
Dr RATNAM: Certainly; withdrawn. In response to criticism from the First Peoples’ Assembly the Premier effectively told them to stay in their lane, saying that they had only been elected to negotiate treaties, simultaneously trying to silence First Nations voices while erasing their language and their history in favour of an institution that represents to First Nations a very traumatising history. This is extremely disrespectful. Jill Gallagher described the renaming as:
… yet another piece of our culture erased and replaced by the culture of the invaders.
Marcus Stewart, co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly, said:
With just a few words the government has turned the Maroondah hospital into a culturally unsafe place for our people …
This is a stark reminder of why treaty is so critical, it can put an end to the hurtful platitudes of the powerful.
Nerita Waight, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, has said:
I echo the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices that have criticised the Premier for choosing to erase an Aboriginal word and name a hospital after a former Monarch of the British Empire.
Words matter, and the Premier’s choice of words are another reminder that our people don’t matter. Our lives don’t matter to the systems and people who have power in Victoria.
Treaty means listening to First Nations communities. Treaty is not something that is only going to happen sometime in the future. The treaty process is about showing respect now, listening now and acting now. If the Premier is so prepared to be disrespectful of the voices of First Nations communities over this issue, it raises the question of what attitude the government will take—
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Bourman): Order! Dr Ratnam, if I could just get you to hold on for a second. Just for those in galleries, if you would not take pictures, thanks.
Dr RATNAM: It raises the question of what attitude the government will take to actual treaty negotiations. The outpouring of criticism of this decision—a change.org petition has over 20 000 signatures already—shows Victorians are ready and willing to stand with First Nations communities. I hope this government is too. I urge the Premier to reverse this decision: do the right thing.