Mar 31, 2017

Should we rename buildings whose namesakes turn out to be objectionable?

As Melbourne University renames the Richard Berry Building on account of eugenics, it's time to ask: should we expect those who lend their names to things to remain of unimpeachable moral character?

Michael Bradley — Managing partner at Marque Lawyers

Michael Bradley

Managing partner at Marque Lawyers

Arguably the loveliest spot in Sydney is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. The city’s surviving sandstone grandeur owes much to the legacy of her husband Lachlan Macquarie, governor of NSW from 1810 to 1821. Macquarie Street, Macquarie University and Macquarie Bank, among many landmarks and institutions, mark his memory as a giant of Australia’s colonial period.

He was also a bit inclined towards genocide. In 1816, Macquarie declared a covert war against the remaining Aboriginal tribes around Sydney. His written instruction to the commander of the 46th Regiment (slightly edited) was explicit:

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5 thoughts on “Should we rename buildings whose namesakes turn out to be objectionable?

  1. Peter Murphy

    I think you are being a little unfair to Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he may have had some… (ahem) ‘antiquated’ views on African-Americans, but he did sign the Emancipation Proclamation, which is far more than Jefferson ever did. In my opinion, you judge people mainly by their actions, with their thoughts and words coming second. One of these blokes deserve to be removed from Mount Rushmore, and it isn’t Honest Abe.

  2. zut alors

    Whoever personally funds a building should be able to brand their name on it permanently.

    But not if it is paid for with public money. A big difference.

  3. Nick

    Ah yes, who writes the history ? Macquarie’s tomb on the isle of Mull carries this inscription, in part, in florid high Victorian : “the private virtue and amiable disposition with which he was endowed, rendered him at once a most beloved husband, father and master, and a most endearing friend… (his 47 yr public service) was uniformly characterized by animated zeal for his profession, active benevolence and generosity… his services (as NSW gov 1809-21) have justly attached a lasting honour to his name. The wisdom, liberality and benevolence of all the measures of his administration… the unwearied assiduity with which he sought to promote the welfare of all classes of the community …. has rendered him truly deserving of the appellation by which he been distinguished : the father of australia

  4. sjterry

    Within the old Empire countries, after old Queen Vic., the Churchill name must have the greatest number of statues, buildings, institutions….Yet read his writings on his colonial experiences, and you become aware of a dinky-di old racist!

  5. Donald McAllister

    Somehow Bond University escaped a mention.

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