In 2020, there was a state government sponsored campaign to find a name for the aerotropolis – the high-tech city next to the new airport being built at Badgerys Creek. The campaign asked the community to take part by sending in their name suggestions.
In March 2021 it was revealed that the new city would be called Bradfield, in honour of the famous engineer behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the early railway system.
“Bradfield was selected after the community was asked to have a say, with a panel settling on the final decision to honour John Bradfield’s enduring city-shaping impact on Sydney, including his major contribution the Sydney Harbour Bridge,’’ the government said in a media release.
But there were no other popular names mentioned, how many “votes’’ Bradfield got, if any, from the public.
The only references were made by Stuart Ayres, the minister for Western Sydney, who said in the media release:
“The number of suggestions the community put forward to ‘Name the Place’ was overwhelming and we are thrilled with the level of participation and interest this project attracted.
“We thank everyone for having their say and want to assure the community the remaining suggestions will be considered as names for streets, parks and other landmarks in the new city centre.’’
In other words, someone had made a decision to go with Bradfield anyway, and popular suggestions from the community would get the scraps as names for side streets and cul-de-sacs.
As these things go, few people noticed the Bradfield name decision, especially anyone outside our region.
The South West Voice, mystified by the secrecy surrounding the decision, and indeed the choice of Bradfield, went public with a suggestion that an Indigenous name would surely have been the right thing to do so deep into the 21st century.
We suggested that Burragorang, the area west of the airport would have been a much better option than honouring a man who had already been honoured many times over.
It seems we hit a nerve because there have been rumblings ever since about how wrong the Bradfield decision was.
And as senior Liverpool Labor councillor Nathan Hagarty says – “the one thing everyone in Western Sydney agrees on is that this [Bradfield] is the wrong name.’’
Indeed it looks like Liverpool is the next battleground in the growing community campaign to convince the state government to throw Bradfield out and go for an Indigenous name like Burragorang or Dharug.
Hagarty’s colleague Betty Green, who is also the co-chair of the Aboriginal Consultative Committee, sought to have a motion on the Bradfield issue tabled at the last Liverpool Council meeting but was persuaded to do it at the next meeting.
Cr Green has confirmed that she plans to do that with a notice of motion.
In her presentation to council, Cr Green read out part of the letter sent to the Geographical Names Board by the Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ACC) in August last year.
“The land on which this city stands has a rich First Nations heritage and culture. The Dharug people are the traditional custodians of the land in this region. The ACC urges the Geographical Names Board (GNB) to reconsider the selected name for the city and instead honour the region’s rich First Nations heritage and culture.
“Failing to select a name of First Nations cultural significance for the Aerotropolis is a missed opportunity. Further, it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the significant impact such a choice would have on Western Sydney, NSW and indeed the entire nation’s efforts to support and encourage reconciliation.’’
Cr Green wants council to write to the names board and express disappointment it did not respond to the objection raised by the ACC.
Her notice of motion will also ask that council write to relevant state and federal ministers that going forward comprehensive consultation with our First Nations must be central to future planning.
Cr Green told the council at last week’s meeting that a unanimous motion was passed at the Aboriginal Consultative Committee on June 2, strenuously objecting to the State Government decision to name the Western Sydney Aerotropolis City “Bradfield”, and not consider a local aboriginal name.
It may not seem like much, but what Cr Green and Hagarty, and indeed Liverpool Council are doing will keep the issue alive.
Whether it changes the government’s mind is another matter, but then again there’s also the small matter of a state election next March where a change of government looks increasingly likely.