06 Dec 2017 Part 5: The Lake Moniboeng Naming Story – Another piece of the puzzle emerges from the archives…

Three years ago, we took a closer look at the long and complex dispute surrounding the name for this remote but beautiful permanent freshwater lake at the eastern end of Long Swamp, in Discovery Bay Coastal Park. You can revisit that earlier story by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

In this blog we’ll take a quick look at some additional information that has recently emerged while I was searching the Victorian archives for information relevant to the Long Swamp Restoration Trial evaluation report (which is currently being finalised, and we hope to be able to share with you soon).

To complement an element of the story that was referred to in Part 3, we now have the opportunity to review some Department of Fisheries and Wildlife correspondence from way back in 1972, when they were the government agency responsible for Lake Moniboeng, part of the then Long Swamp State Game Reserve. It appears that the Victorian Place Names Committee were officially reviewing the name of the lake in 1972, and were consulting with local organisations to try to get to the bottom of the story. For an initial example, this article from May 1972 in the Portland Observer shows the logic of debate within the chambers of the Portland Shire Council:

Article from Page 3 of the Portland Observer, 17th May, 1972.

Article from Page 3 of the Portland Observer, 17th May, 1972.

A little later that year, on the 31st of August, the Place Names Committee wrote to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, as the public land manager of the site, which triggered an investigation by Gavin Cerini (at that time, a Game Management Officer with the Department). This is what he wrote after completing his own research:

Internal Memorandum by Gavin Cerini from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, from 24th October, 1972

Internal Memorandum by Gavin Cerini from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, from 24th October, 1972

However, despite his internal recommendation, the Department at that time decided to support the retention of existing official place name ‘Bong Bong’:

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Response, 15th January, 1973

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Response, 15th January, 1973

In is interesting to note that the very first spelling for the Lake – “Moniboeng” – recorded by the Lang brothers (see Part 4), who became familiar with the local indigenous language and were present at first contact with some of the local Indigenous people, continues to appear in the reference material for those who investigated the issue. Indeed, it appears from the records of the council discussion that the Place Names Committee had also come across an earlier spelling (Momboeng) that had the ‘oe’ around the right way, but the councillors discussion is revealing in its honesty when it was suggested that this “sounds awful”.

And so it seems this attempt to resolve the matter was again influenced by bias, both conscious and unconscious. Even the highly respected local historian Noel Learmonth himself, who was certainly aware of the very first spelling for the site, decided to push for an alternative spelling, Monibeong, which is still in use by Parks Victoria today. One can only assume he made a quite rational decision at the time (based on the recorded opinion from the council meeting, and the Place Names Committee report below), of favouring a spelling with greater possibility of being adopted and more fluently pronounced by English-speaking locals, but also thereby helping to entrench the drift away from a more phonetically correct version of this local Indigenous name.

To close the current chapter of this story, in the final report that justified the ultimate decision of the Place Names Committee in 1973, we discover how and why the name for the lake became, and still is ‘officially’ signposted as, Lake “Mombeong”, as reported in Part 1. The following report, written in July 1973, was ultimately endorsed by the Minister of Lands in September 1973.

Page 1 of the Place Names Committee report from July 5th 1973.

Page 1 of the Place Names Committee report from the 5th of July 1973.

Page 2 of the Place Names Committee report from July 5th 1973.

Page 2 of the Place Names Committee report from the 5th of July 1973.

 

Mark Bachmann
Mark Bachmann
mark.bachmann@natureglenelg.org.au