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‘Coon’ Island Conservation Area: Will it be renamed?

Lake Macquarie’s historic Coon Island conservation area, at Swansea, is under the spotlight for a name change. One of our local Indigenous groups has voiced their concern that the name is “hurtful” and creates “unsavoury comments” directed at them. Also on the campaign is Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan. Stephen was responsible for almost a decade of campaigning to change the name Coon cheese. On the 22nd of February 2021, the Lake Macquarie council sat to discuss the possibility of a name change. This was proposed by councillor Kevin Baker.


How Coon Island got its name

Coon Island was named after Herbert ‘Coon’ Heaney, a white man from Greta, who was the first permanent resident of the island. He was nicknamed ‘coon’ because he worked in the coal mines and would come out with coal dust on his face. Councillor Baker said it might be possible to rename the island with a dual name. A name that would consider both the Indigenous name and another which preserves the memory of Heaney.

Activist Dr Stephen Hagan said, “this should be a vote on a motion to change the racist name to a local name ‘Galgabba’ that has long been endorsed by the Awabakal people, traditional owners of the area.”


The Coon cheese name change

In January 2021 Coon cheese announced their new name Cheer cheese after more than 80 years. You’ll see the new packaging hit shelves in July 2021. Stephen Hagan talked to ABC Newcastle about the name origin. He explained how it wasn’t the person who first made the cheese so had no historical significance.

“Research showed Mr Coon was an uneducated factory worker added to the patent 10 years after the cheese was sold”, said Dr Hagan.


2021 and beyond

“I’ve never had a problem with someone by the name Mr Coon; the problem has always been this myth that Coon cheese is from Edward William Coon,” Mr Hagan told news.com.au in January.

“Consultation was a legal necessity before the names of any locations or suburbs could be officially changed. It would also give local Aboriginal land councils the chance to have their say. It has to go through the Geographical Names Board, and to do that you have to present a case and show you have consulted with the community”, said Mr Baker




news.com.au: Call to change Australian suburb’s ‘racist’ name {Accessed February 2021}

ABC Newcastle: Aboriginal activist will call on Premier to rename Coon Island if Lake Macquarie Council doesn’t act {Accessed February 2021}


ABC News: Coon Cheese changes name to Cheer Cheese, pledging to ‘build a culture of acceptance’ {Accessed February 2021}

9news.com.au: Coon Cheese announces rebrand after 85 years {Accessed February 2021}

saputodairyaustralia.com.au: Introducing CHEER™ Cheese {Accessed February 2021}



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