Some people want to change the name of the Peel region. Some people support the idea. And some people think it’s absurd.
If you haven’t read the excellent Nathan Hondros pieces on Peel and the name change controversy, click here
Both sides of the argument have valid points. And it’s my hope that we can diffuse any animosity between the different camps by exploring why each side thinks what they do.
The “Change It” Rationale
Before you roll your eyes at all those demanding the name be dropped, take a moment and think about how you’d feel if your great uncle was murdered by someone famous here in town. I’ll make up a name... let’s go with Ivan Milat. Instead of sending Milat to jail, he remained very wealthy, and even had a street named after him, the very street you lived on.
Now, you never met your great uncle, your parents had only told you stories of him, but nevertheless, every time you drove up your street and saw the Milat sign you were reminded of the pain inflicted on your family, and the fact that Milat was celebrated rather than condemned just added insult to injury.
So if you take a moment to think about it, and put yourself in the shoes of the decendents and relatives of those who suffered at the hands of Thomas Peel, it’s pretty easy to see why the name could be upsetting. Even if you don’t believe that’s a good enough reason to change the name, we all still have enough empathy to understand how those who want the name changed must feel.
But here’s the other side of the story.
The “Keep It” Rationale
Honestly it seems the media are just looking for the next thing for everyone to be offended over. It generates page views, which are needed to sell advertising.
Australia Day. Something some English bloke did 300 years ago. Someone being booed at the footy. Donald Trump said something wrong and now we all have anxiety.
Everyone’s a victim, trying to outplay each other’s victim cards.
Meanwhile no one is teaching personal responsibility or reminding folks that they live in one of the best countries on earth and can achieve whatever they want.
So when you hear of people wanting to change a longstanding name that we’re all familiar with just because someone somewhere is offended, it’s pretty easy to just add it to the pile of things that offend the offendable, and roll our eyes.
I mean, have you read the full story of the Peel Massacre? There was another man you might have heard of named Stirling who was involved. Shall we rename the City of Stirling and the suburb Stirling while we’re at it? Another guy named Roe was involved too. More name changes.
Perhaps you’ve heard of John Bussell (or maybe you’ve heard of Busselton). John was once prosecuted for manslaughter when he killed a young Aboriginal girl but he got off with a mere 1 shilling fine. He and his family were well known to actually participate in “punitive raids” where they would shoot and kill Aboriginals. So now we have to rename the entire city of Busselton?
Where would it end?
It’s not really about whether the person was good or bad. It’s just a huge hassle and it’s arguable that we’ve got far better things to spend our money on.
So before you call anyone “redneck” just because they’re against changing the name, take a breath and think of the last time descendants of the convicts, who were essentially slaves, shipped to Australia from their homeland, were ever apologised to, given land back in Great Britain, or had a national day of recognition. It will never happen.
Many of those who don’t want the name changed aren’t rednecks, they are just sick of the “here’s what we’re offended about today” treadmill we all seem to be on.
But that’s not to say we shouldn’t change the name
Whatever you think about changing the name, you should contact your elected representative and let them know your thoughts.
I personally can understand both arguments and honestly just hope that as we debate the matter we can remain empathetic to those who see things differently to us.
I do have some thoughts around a pragmatic approach to the word “Peel” though.
It was a year or so ago when I first learned the story of who the Peel region was named after, and the massacre led by Thomas Peel.
I was appalled at the lengths some folks went to to avoid using the word massacre and instead used the term battle when speaking of the event, as if any such fight could have been anything other than one sided.
Since learning about Peel, I decided to try to avoid using the term on my website, and now when referring to areas near Mandurah I usually use the term “Mandurah Region”.
There are two reasons.
1. Being part Aboriginal myself, (yes, I know I’m very white) and as an Australian, I am fully aware of how odd it is naming something after someone who has harmed Australia’s Aboriginal people.
2. Peel is a terrible marketing name for the region and I would suggest 80% of WA couldn’t point to it on a map. Plus there’s another Peel Region outside Toronto. In fact, if you google the term “Peel” outside of WA, you do NOT find us.
Why we persist in marketing using the Peel brand is confusing to me. Something like the “Mandurah Region” could be far more effective and even help nearby locations. (I can’t take credit for that idea though.)
Take Dwellingup as an example. Here’s a marketer trying to get a tourist to visit Dwellingup.
M: “Come to Dwellingup”
T: “Where’s Dwellingup?”
M: “In the Peel Region.”
T: “Where’s the Peel Region?”
M: “South of Perth.”
T: “So like near Bunbury?”
M: “No, it’s near Mandurah.”
M: “Come to Dwellingup.”
T: “Where’s Dwellingup?”
M: “In the Mandurah region.”
Townships near Mandurah may benefit from switching to the Mandurah brand rather than continuing to fight a losing battle by pushing what may become a toxic “Peel” name.