COUNCIL business took a back seat for a while at Tuesday’s monthly meeting and the chamber filled with song as an Aboriginal delegation’s members made their case for the official naming of the Macleay Floodplain bridge.
Members of the Dhangatti Language Group came up with the name “Yapang gurraarbang gayandugayigu” during a discussion at their TAFE class.
It means “Very long track to the other side”.
They hope the Aboriginal name and its English translation will be adopted together as the official name for what will be the longest bridge in the southern hemisphere.
The group consists of Dhangatti elders and, with the help of linguist Amanda Lissarrague, its members are dedicated to reviving and renewing the local indigenous language.
Uncle Bob Smith introduced the song to the councillors, staff and the public gallery, which included year 5 students from St Joseph’s Primary School.
After a Welcome to Country, he explained to the chamber that the group had approached the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) on the naming of the bridge.
The group had received letters of support from three local Aboriginal organisations for the choice of name, he said.
It has also received an endorsement from the Macleay Valley Tourism Association, which wrote: “We feel that this is an excellent opportunity to honour and acknowledge the wonderful indigenous history of our local area.”
Uncle Bob told the meeting the important aspect of the bridge for Dunghutti people was that the structure was embedded in the rock and soil of their country, and it was as much a part of that country as Sugarloaf Mountain or any other natural feature.
He appreciated that other groups would be interested in naming the bridge and did not want to downplay their suggestions, he said, but he believed the Aboriginal name would help bring the bridge to national and international attention.
Construction of the 3.2km-long bridge is expected to be completed by Easter next year, weather-permitting.
An RMS spokesperson said public consultation would begin early in the New Year, as part of a strategy for the naming of the bridge.
The Dhangatti Language Group’s name would be considered alongside any other suggestions submitted by the community, the spokesperson added.