COUTTS Crossing could have two names and a memorial to the 23 Aboriginal people murdered by the man the town is named after, following a meeting called to discuss proposals to rename the village.

Prospects for a name change for the village have gathered pace since Daily Examiner indigenous columnist Janelle Brown's article two weeks ago detailed how colonial settler Thomas Coutts murdered 23 Aboriginal people with arsenic-laced flour he gave as payment for work on his property at Kangaroo Creek in 1848.

Yesterday, about 40 people - indigenous and European - met at the Gurehlgam Centre in Grafton to discuss the next steps in proposing a name change for the village. The meeting did not produce formal resolutions, but the debate uncovered key areas to work on.

These included a proposal to include a traditional twin name for the village and to build a memorial in the village for the victims of the atrocity.

"I didn't know I would get the amount of kick back from the article," said Ms Brown, who led the meeting.

"But it's good. It's time to have these conversations and look at things like a name change for Coutts Crossing.

"What happened at Kangaroo Creek was a horrendous thing and not good for the Clarence Valley

"It's not good for a town to be named after a mass murderer."

She said research into Gumbaynggir language revealed the original name for the area had been Daam Miirlarl, which meant a special place for yams.

However, she was reluctant to push this name as an alternative until there was further discussion among indigenous people about it.

Meeting leader and Indigenous columnist Janelle Brown and Anglican ministers Rev Camellia Flanagan and Rev Lenore Parker were key speakers at the meeting.
Meeting leader and Indigenous columnist Janelle Brown and Anglican ministers Rev Camellia Flanagan and Rev Lenore Parker were key speakers at the meeting. Tim Howard

Coutts Crossing resident Cr Greg Clancy said yesterday's meeting was an initial step to move toward a name change.

"It's not something that is going to happen next week," he said.

Cr Clancy also made an apology for the deputy mayor Jason Kingsley, who was also the council's delegate to the Aboriginal Conultative Committee. He said working through the council committee could be the best way to bring the push for a name change to the council.

Cr Clancy said the work of local historian and environmentalist John Edwards left no doubt Thomas Coutts murdered the 23 Gumbaynggir people with poisoned flower.

"In his book The History of the Coutts Crossing and Nymboida Areas, the chapter on the Kangaroo Creek massacre has all the transcripts from the court case," he said.

"Its evidence is conclusive, but the case could not go ahead because the court at the time could not hear evidence from Aboriginal witnesses."

A former owner of the property on which the massacre occurred, John Maxwell, had nothing positive to say about the original owner.

"What he did was cynical beyond belief," Mr Maxwell said. "To poison 6kg of flour and give it to people, knowing they would take it home and kill a huge number more of their family, is too terrible to consider."

Mr Maxwell said he supported a name change for Coutts Crossing, but it needed to happen slowly.

"I would be happy for it to go ahead, but I would like to see both names on the signage," he said.

Other speakers also backed the twin names for the Coutts area, as well as a memorial to the massacre at the local museum. Several speakers said this could be done in a similar fashion to commemoration of the Myall Creek Massacre.

Indigenous speakers said there needed to be a meeting of Aboriginal people to discuss how they would like to see these issues carried forward, before a public meeting at Coutts Crossing.

Ms Brown said the indigenous meeting was likely to be held in the next two weeks.



Swim school shuts its doors

premium_icon Swim school shuts its doors

Popular swimming school has lease terminated

WARNING: Wire strung across road

WARNING: Wire strung across road

Rider allegedly injured by wire posts warning

IN COURT: 69 people facing Grafton court today

premium_icon IN COURT: 69 people facing Grafton court today

Here's a list of everyone appearing in court today, August 19