Is it time to rename Chinaman’s Beach?

Jan 2023History, Stories

Written by Sarah Mallard.

Words have power, and over the years the way we talk has changed. These days, only those who are Chinese or Indigenous can use words like “Chinaman” or “Blackfella” to describe themselves, it’s not appropriate for folks of different cultures to use these words to describe others.

It can feel like the “politically correct police” are everywhere nowadays, telling us what we can and can’t say. Regardless, in the 21st Century we are moving on from ways that may have been considered harmless before. We have no choice but to move with the times – for our children, our neighbours and our visitors.

The way I see it, this one comes down to RESPECT, something we should see more of. Through education and storytelling, we can all play our part to foster respect in the next generation.

So how did Chinaman’s Beach get its name?

Legend has it that a Chinese bloke used to sit up there on the hill fishing. One day, one of our freak waves took him and he drowned in the ocean below. Since then, the spot was referred to by locals as Chinaman’s Beach.

To name a beach after someone who died there, could be seen as a sign of respect. In many cultures around the world, to name a place after the dead is to honour them. But then I think, why don’t we know his real name? Who died there? What was his name? No one can say, except that he was a Chinaman.

In Aboriginal culture, to speak of the dead is taboo, so the name Chinaman’s Beach doesn’t sit right with many of our mob: the Nhanda tribe, the traditional owners and caretakers of the water and lands around the mighty Murchison River.

My mum Rachael sits on the Nhanda board, and believes that there is widespread community support for a name change in Western Australia. I think that by working together, in consultation with the community, we can find the right and true name for our world-famous jewel, and send a message of peace and unity around the globe.

Bula Guda is the ancient story of two brothers who come from the sky. They came to dance and sing, and tell the story of how lore is for the Nhanda people. This is the connection between the Nhanda and the sky. When Bula Guda danced and sang on the beach we now call Chinaman’s, the two brothers went back to the sky to become the evening star that shines down on us every night.

What do you think? Do you have a suggestion for a new name? Or perhaps you have strong feelings that it shouldn’t be changed. Either way, please head to the Kalbarri Town Talk Facebook Page and let us know.

I bet we get a few tongues wagging over this one!

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