New packaging with space dedicated for traditional place names, 2020. Courtesy of Australia Post, 2020.
The next time you send a letter or parcel, you can acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land your item is being delivered to! To mark NAIDOC Week in November last year, Australia Post updated their addressing guidelines, as well as 22 of its satchel labels to include a dedicated Traditional Place name and Acknowledgement of Country field in the address panel (Australia Post, 2020). If you aren’t already familiar with traditional place names, check out our previous article Nangun wruk - First Languages Australia's National Place Names Project for more information.
This change was followed by a campaign led by proud Gomeroi woman Rachael McPhail. The idea for the campaign came from when Rachael started taking notice of which councils acknowledge country on their signage around Wiradjuri Country (NSW). This curiosity led Rachael to testing her idea out by addressing several parcels with traditional place names to herself. After it worked several times, she took her campaign idea to social media and the exuberant responses indicated how strongly people felt about petitioning Australia Post. With this, and the encouragement from local Wiradjuri Elders, Rachael took her campaign to Australia Post and petitioned them to compile a database of traditional place names and allow for the inclusion of them on postal addresses (Australia Post, 2020).
In a statement made to the press last year, in regards to her campaign, McPhail said (2020):
“This is about paying respect to First Nations people, and their continuing connection to country...If everyone adopts this small change, it will make a big difference.”
Rachael has also called upon Australian organisations and businesses to include traditional place names as part of their online address forms.
"...I'd love to see Aussie businesses, universities, banks, MyGov, PayPal, Star Track, Uber etcetera asking people for the traditional place name as part of the address information when people are filling in the forms or going through the online checkout," McPhail said to ABC News (2020).
Gomeroi woman Rachael McPhail. Courtesy of Australia Post, 2020.
Australia Post National Indigenous Manager and Noongar man Chris Heelan said (2020), in support of the campaign:
“We not only listened to Rachael, but to the overwhelming feedback from thousands of Australians who supported this fantastic concept to recognise traditional country on their mail...Including the traditional place name as part of the mailing address is a simple but meaningful way to promote and celebrate our Indigenous communities, which is something Australia Post has a long and proud history of doing.”
Australia Post National Indigenous Manager and Noongar man Chris Heelan, 2020. Courtesy of Australia Post, 2020.
Another figure in support of the campaign is Nicole Moore, the CEO of the Nowra Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC). Moore informed ABC News (2020):
"Nowra LALC sees great potential for acknowledgement of country to act as recognition that Australia always was, always will be Aboriginal land...We encourage the wider community to engage in genuine learning on this topic, including understanding the impacts of colonisation and past government practices and the dispossession and dislocation from country that has brought."
As you can imagine, McPhail was extremely delighted about the widespread support and that Australia Post not only built on her campaign goals, but encouraged fellow Australians to use traditional place names to improve their knowledge on Indigenous history and heritage.
When sending items, make sure that you write the traditional place name between the recipient’s name and their street address and postcode to ensure that your item is sorted properly. To find the correct traditional place name, you can check AIATSIS, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Councils or Cultural Centres in your local area.
“I’ll be immensely proud, proud to be an Aboriginal man receiving a package that has my birthplace, my country, on the parcel,” Heelan excitedly told ABC News (2020).
Currently, McPhail is working on compiling a comprehensive database of Traditional Place names. McPhail informed ABC News (2020) on the matter:
“What that entails is comprehensive and respectful consultation with First Nations people, Elders, and community leaders, all around the country...We need to make sure we are recording and collating that information all around the country.”
McPhail’s community movement is a momentous achievement that will help shape the way in which the wider community views and respects the land of the traditional custodians on which we stand today. It will provide further recognition and will help educate people on the history of dispossession and dislocation of First Nations peoples from their homelands; their country. So, the next time you send a letter or parcel in Australia, celebrate country and First Nations culture by including the Traditional Place name in the mailing address.
We at Yarn, acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work, the Yuggera and Turrbal peoples. We pay our respects to all Elders,
past, present and emerging.