In the last week or so, there has been widespread community interest in, and concerns over, the inadvertent commemoration of ‘pioneers’ who were responsible for massacres of Aboriginal people (in light of the Black Lives Matter protests). Locally, this is seen in place names, including Faithfull Street in Wangaratta (named for George Faithfull), and the Warby Ranges (named for Benjamin Warby), to name just two of many examples. As people think of renaming places, there has been a corresponding interest in original Aboriginal place names. I am publishing this list of original local place names (below) as an addition to Megan Carter’s larger list. You can find this list on her blog at: It’s all in a name: a resurfaced collection Aboriginal place names in North East Victoria
In 1858, District Surveyor A. L. Martin, who was based at the Survey Office in Beechworth, supplied a list of local place names to the Surveyor General in Melbourne. These were ‘native names which I have been able to learn from a gentleman who has resided a considerable time in this District.’  (I speculate either David or Curtis Reid, who were among the first non-Aboriginal people to settle in the area, and were still in the district in 1858, as likely candidates).
Currarrarbyandigee — the township of Wangaratta
Byamotha — Reid’s Creek or Woolshed
Bontharambo — Docker’s Plains
Currurargarmongee — Reid’s Station
Moyhu — Chisholm’s station, King River
Burrurrurgurmonge — Hodgson’s Creek
Kirah — River Ovens
(B?)amorrmongee — 3 Mile Creek, Wangaratta
Loahwambiah — One Mile Creek, Wangaratta
Mowongboga — Fifteen Mile Creek, Wangaratta
Bialagarngee — Everton
On 23 February 1841, Chief Protector George Augustus Robinson recorded in his journal place names collected from local Aboriginal people, whom he spoke with while at Bontharambo station. One of these names, for the junction of the Ovens and King Rivers, was ‘Corram-beyan-didder’. This easily corresponds with ‘Currarrar-byan-digee,’ supporting the authenticity of this place name for Wangaratta, and more specifically the river junction area.
I also find it especially interesting that ‘Moyhu’ is an original Aboriginal name, which puts a convincing end to the myth that it was derived from two Chinese men, Ah Moy and Ah Yu! Likewise, as you will see on Megan’s list, Edi is also an original name, and is not a foreshortened version of ‘Heide’ as one finds as a dubious explanation in some local histories.
Finally, Aboriginal people often had multiple names for one water course, as they named them in sections.
So what do you prefer: Everton or ‘Bya-la-garngee’? Faithfull Street or ‘Corram-byan-diddah Street’?
Letter from A. L. Martin, District Surveyor, to the Surveyor General, Melbourne, 4 November, 1858, Public Records Office Victoria.
I have sighted a copy of the original letter as an appendix in Marie Hansen Fel’s unpublished report ‘These Singular People — The Ovens Blacks’, 1997. Fels did not provide a full bibliographic citation, but I would suggest the letter is held in either of these files:
VPRS 16685/ P1 unit 26, item Bundle 162, Book 2110
VPRS 16685/ P1 unit 26, item Bundle 162, Book 2115
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