Aboriginal place names for cities in Australia

Hi and G’day!

While watching the Womens Soccer World Cup I noticed that the names of the city are given in English and a local aboriginal name:

  • Adelaide/Tarntanya
  • Brisbane/Meaanjin
  • Melbourne/Naarm
  • Perth/Boorloo
  • Sydney/Gadigal

These are the names FIFA is using. I checked whether they were already in OSM, and wanted to add the missing names.

“Tarntanya” is from the Kaurna language, so I added name:zku=Tarntanya

“Meanjin” was in name:aus, but the Turrbal language has its own ISO code, so I moved it to name:yxg=Meanjin, according to the Australian tagging guidelines. I kept the slightly different spelling.

Added Woiwurrung name:wyi=Naarm

already has name:nys=Boorlo

had no aboriginal name tagged yet, and the situation is a bit confusing:
Fifa uses “Gadigal” which seems to be the name of a clan that lived in the area. The language would seem to be Dharug, so name:xdk=Gadigal looks good.
Australia Post is also using Gadigal as traditional place name of Sydney which you can use to address mail. So that makes this name pretty “official”.

But – there are also quite a few mentions of “Warrane” as the traditional name for Sydney. This was originally only applied to Sydney Cove, and OSM has Warrane on the node of Sydney Cove. Tourism Australia is using “Sydney / Warrane” a lot, and seems to have done so before “Gadigal” was adopted by the post…

In the end, it looks like both “Gadigal” and “Warrane” are used, and both could / should be tagged on the place node. As far as I understand, both are from the Dharug language, so I made it name:xdk=Gadigal and alt_name:xdk=Warrane and added notes for reference.

Maybe in the future there will be an “official” traditional name for Sydney?

I hope that I didn’t step into a freshly opened can of worms with this… I just found it fascinating enough to write this up. Also, I guess something like this might have happened to other mappers:
Wait, that’s interesting, is it on OSM already?
(1 mins later) No? Nice, I’ll just add it…
(10 mins later) Oh, that’s a bit more complicated, let me get it right…
(5 hours later) Wow, so much information… Now, hopefully that will be okay…


It will be!

Same as Mt Kosciuszko - something like 6 various groups lay claim to it, & all want “their” name on it, but in at least some cases, “their” preferred name is offensive in another language (Pajero anybody? :thinking:).

For something like Sydney, you’d probably finish up with one name North of the Harbour, another South, a couple fo different places up the river, others on the Coast & so on :crazy_face:

This is a big can of worms. You may have noticed Australia Post (https://auspost.com.au/content/dam/auspost_corp/media/documents/how-to-add-traditional-place-names-at-checkout.PDF) is also promoting the use of traditional names as part of addressing.

Where it starts getting confusing is that most resources point to AIATSIS which is representing language groups. For Sydney, it would return Eora south of the harbour, and Kuring-gai to the north.

I am looking to include traditional names as part of my work at both state and federal government levels. Even specialists within those organisations can not point to one definitive resource.

Whilst it is frustrating, there is no easy solution at a national or state level. Not yet, anyway.

For something like Sydney, you’d probably finish up with one name North of the Harbour, another South, a couple fo different places up the river, others on the Coast & so on :crazy_face:

That’s no different to placenames in the UK

Welsh names are often descriptions which are understandable in modern Welsh.

English placenames too, if you look at their roots in older languages.

The most well known example being the River Avon, meaning River River.

My hometown was originally a Saxon settlement, it’s present name being an anglicised version of it’s original Old English/Saxon name.