Perth Airport has become the first major airport in Australia to recognise the Traditional Indigenous Place Names on its boarding gates. The airport’s Chief Commercial Officer, Kate Holsgrove, reported that the traditional place names for 57 destinations across the nation were determined via consultations with local Indigenous communities and councils, as well as using the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) map. Holsgrove also consulted with Native Title claims to best identify the traditional custodians for each of the ports that the planes fly to across the nation (Travel Weekly, 2021).
If you’re wondering how this works, a flight to Adelaide will be displayed on the boarding gate as “Adelaide/Kaurna Country,” and flights to Newman will be “Newman/Nyiyaparli Country.” The screen - across Terminal 1 Domestic, and Terminals 3 and Terminal 4 - will rotate between the place name of the Traditional Custodians and the commonly used place name (Travel Weekly, 2021).
Boarding gate at Perth Airport displaying Traditional Place Names. Courtesy of Perth Airport Facebook, 2021.
In a press statement, Perth Airport’s CEO Kevin Brown (2021) explained that acknowledging Country and the Traditional Custodians is a significant part of the airport’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP):
“Perth Airport sits on the traditional lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation, which once formed part of their traditional travelling networks.”
Western Australia welcomes travellers from all corners of the globe, who Brown says, “are fascinated by Aboriginal culture and want to understand and experience it firsthand.” This is especially since Perth Airport is “often the first and the last point of connection to the vibrant and unique cultural heritage of [the] state’s Aboriginal people” (Brown, 2021). So, Brown says that this move “makes sense to recognise the Traditional Custodians of destinations for departing passengers.”
This acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians on the boarding gates is a significant step in providing recognition and respect to our nation’s rich Aboriginal culture and history. It also provides a way for the airport to help start conversations with the travelling public and airport community around this 60,000-years-strong-culture. Overall, this change is a meaningful step towards reconciliation.