I mean, the term is a problematic one, given by Spanish, Dutch, British colonists – first given by Mathew Flinders writing in prison in Mauritius – terra australis incognita, and this name, Australia, proposed by Macquarie and authorised by the Admiralty. Why accept what those pirates had to say? Flinders adopted the phrase somehow from the Spanish “Austrialia del Espíritu Santo” (Southern Land of the Holy Spirit) – and sure it was holy in some sense, but certainly not incognita, nor nullis, as we know well. The Dutch preferred New Holland, but that is equally problematic, and given that they also used Austrailis, with no disrespect to the Dutch, why do we follow their ascription (and while we are at it, surely New Zealanders should get about to changing their name as well – Aotearoa (Māori: [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]), is the obvious candidate). But what to rename the Great Southern Land? I am not going to propose we adopt anything from the Italians either, despite the very welcome migration of good cofeee adn pasta to Carlton etc., but in Latin, auster does connotes south or place from where the hot wind comes. It also had an earlier sense of East, and indeed the prefix aus can mean to shine or burn, ausre means dawn, if we look to the cognates: Greek eos “dawn,” auein “to dry, kindle;” Sanskrit usah, Lithuanian ausra “dawn;” Latin auster “south wind,” usum “to burn;” Old English east “east”.
Since other countries on independence from the colonial powers had no problem changing their names – Sri Lanka from Ceylon, Taiwan from Formosa – I think there is a case for renaming Australia in recognition of the potential for mass inward Chinese migration, perhaps New Tibet would be something to have in mind, lets call it Newbit. Or how about in recognition of the pomo linguistic muddle that we clearly have here around names, we could use Nomgolia. I like that because as a mostly arid country we have the potential to appeal to the Chinese as a migration destination option that would something like southern Mongolia. Well, sadly the racists won’t accept the argumentation that relies on China to populate the great expanses of the Murray basin, clearly we need to explore some indigenous names. Myself, coming from Melbourne, I like Yarra. We could name the country after a great river, apparently a koorie word for water, or waterfall, misheard by the early settler-colonists as a name for the river – yarra yarra they said, and pointed to the waterfall. So we could elevate that error as the name for the country in appropriate recognition of the early mistakes of occupation – a kind of sorry name gesture would not go astray. And after all, the droughts and flooding rains routine did leave some of the early error-making trekkers padding around in the desert begging indigenous folk for water – Burke and wills for example, set off to cross the country south to north, starting from the banks of the Yarra in 1860, died trying to get to Mount Hopeless on the way back (see the statue by Charles Summers, pic by Adam Carr).
I am proposing, as executive member of the Australian Government in exile, founded 1994, Manchester, now also with an office in Hsinchu City, that we have a referendum (that’s a fancy word for guessing game) on a new name.
My preference is for Nomgolia, but I would also accept Yarra Yarra. What do other people think?
[addendum: yes this was a Halloween post, but after all the pics of folks I know dressed in Halloween garb – adults I mean, not just kids – I wonder why it did not occur to me that we should just apply for US statehood. Especially as ex-glorious-leader Abbott crowed about so much in the UK this week, ever closer all the way ties. On Abbott’s overseas tour – does anyone know how he is getting back to Australia? – now is a good time to stop his boat, or plane, or broomstick]