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We're the independent peak body for organisations, practitioners and individuals promoting gender equity in Victoria.

PHNOI Resources

How to progress place naming and public art equality

Establish a starting point with a pulse check. Where is the organisation at in the process towards place naming and public art equality to assist with identifying gaps and planning for success.

Download pulse check


Steps towards commemorative place naming and public art equality

An audit provides the necessary information to identify base level data, to support the case for change and to establish actions and measure progress. The audit is required to promote gender equality, make a positive gender impact and ensure in Victoria that 70% of all new commemorative place naming is of women. The collective localised audits can help establish the commemorative gap at a state, territory and national level and inform classification of places by gender and identity.

The audit is to be completed by naming authorities and officer/s with responsibilities around place naming, public art, gender equality, property management/open space management and is best done collectively. The auditing process can be supported by external organisations and individuals such as historical groups, and consideration can be given to contracting a third party if internal resources are unavailable. Example: Nillumbik Shire Council and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL) partnered to facilitate place-naming workshops at the Diamond Valley Library, where they had access to the local history collection, library resources and the internet to research and document the history of local street names, monuments, reserves and more.

We want naming authorities to count places and public art totals, total after people, commemorative and Aboriginal language and total by genders and identities (Aboriginal; Migrant/Refugee; Disability LGBTIQA+; white, hetro, able-bodied).

It’s important to analyse the data and establish the numbers of each of the categories to understand the gap and calculate the estimated period to close the gap.

Example: Womensfield Councils total commemorative place names in 2023 were 232 = 204 (88%) men, 28 (12%) women, 0 non-binary. Over the past three years, Womensfield is naming, on average, 20 places after people of history per annum. They have recently established a target that at least 70% of all new commemorative place names will honour women and non-binary people – with 20 per annum, that equates to 15 and 5 respectively each year. Given this data, it is estimated to take 15 to 17  years to close the commemorative gap in place naming.

Please send a copy of the complete data to puthernameonit@genvic.org.au. This will assist in monitoring gaps and progress and inform state, territory and national bodies in the classification of place by gender and identify and finalise gazettals where required.

Sharing the gap internally and with the general public can improve awareness of the issue, transparency and accountability.

Download audit template

 


In Victoria, defined entities are required to meet gender equality requirements of the Gender Equality Act 2020 (do a GIA on new or reviewed policies, programs and services), Naming Rules for Places in Victoria 2022 (promote gender equality in place naming) and Our Equal State 2023-27 (achieve 70% target for all new commemorative naming to be of women).

GIAs are a way of critically thinking about how policies, programs and services will meet the different needs of women, men and gender diverse people, aim to create better and fairer outcomes, and ensure all people have equal access to opportunities and resources. GIAs are a four-step process resulting in recommendations to support equality progress and are best started with a group discussion. Example: Bass Coast Council completed a GIA on place naming, identifying a gap between the names of men and women. Council continues to take action to increase gender diversity in place names, sort formal registration and signage for women’s names, encouraged developers of new subdivisions to propose women’s names for new roads, advocated for policy change at the state level and led promotional activities to build awareness and engage the community in nominating women to be commemorated.

A sample place naming and public art GIA and more on Bass Coast Council’s work can be found here

Almost every naming authority when asked about a list of names was able to confirm a list was present; but when asked how many women were on the list, the answer was most frequently – zero. If we don’t know the names and stories of women who helped shape our communities and beyond, we will not be able to honour them in place and hence never achieve equality. A Name Bank of notable women is therefore an essential step in creating a positive gender impact in place naming and public art.

Follow these steps to create a Name Bank of notable women and non-binary people for future public commemorations

  • Commence a list of names and stories
    • Internal research – awards, past councillors, mayors
    • Tap into local historic society resources
    • Connect with Her Place Museum as experts in women of history
    • Reach out to local clubs and groups
    • Review past external award recipients – Australian honours, Women’s Honour Roll, state & local sports, media, arts, music, Aboriginal, multicultural Hall of Fames, Women’s Register, diverse services and groups
    • Facilitate a campaign to engage the community and garner new names and stories of notable local women. A campaign has been created to support this important step and all campaign material can be found here
  • Create a nomination form to collect names (download sample nomination form)
    • Create or review an online form on organisation’s website
    • Ensure information around gender and identity is embedded in the nomination form
    • Simplify the nomination form (it does not have to be comprehensive – paid staff can engage in follow-up research). Include tick boxes for mandatory requirements; for example, name of nominator and nominee, gender, identify, deceased, local connection, local contribution, other contributions, achievements.
  • Use a prioritisation methodology to finalise the Name Banks to ensure transparency in commemorative selections. Criteria could include historical significance of contribution to political, economic, social or cultural life in the area or beyond, representation of diversity in the area’s story, reflection of values of the area, deceased. This should be embedded in nomination form.
  • Ensure any communication is accessible and displays diverse imagery
  • Consider publishing the Bank of Names for transparency purposes
  • Use the list to guide decisions for naming and public art and continually add new names as they emerge

Good policy can make a huge difference to the effort-reward ratio. Establishing a sound policy base will improve decision-making, proactivity and productivity; ensure a consistent approach to action; improve effectiveness and outcomes; and save time.

Policy can be driven by anyone within the organisation, but the person or team responsible for and accountable to the policy implementation is best placed to lead on the development or review of policy. With this said, engaging with a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders in the development of the policy, and on the draft, will ensure bias and assumptions are challenged and addressed, and the best possible outcome is achieved in the final policy.

Policy development steps:

  • Identify driver, issue that a policy could address – the ‘why’
  • Research – place name and public art audit and GIA will assist
  • Internal and or external consultation/engagement
  • Draft policy
  • Decision-making – final or for consultation on draft
  • Draft policy engagement
  • Finalise policy
  • Endorsement
  • Implementation, monitoring and evaluation, review

Policy considerations and inclusions:

  • Policy name and consistent and inclusive language
  • Purpose and background
  • Target
  • Data and Monitoring
  • Process and engagement
  • Internal resources, governance and delegations
  • Name Bank and nominations

Download the Policy Guide

The policy considerations and inclusions are related to place naming primarily but can also guide (and we strongly recommend they do) policies for public art and memorials to ensure all public place commemorations equally honour people of all genders and identities.

  • Internal resources staff/team
    • Appoint staff/team to strategically and proactively manage the organisation’s place naming and public art policy and procedures, and legislative and policy requirements (In Victoria – Gender Equality Act, Naming of Places in Victoria Guidelines, Our Equal State target)
    • Position descriptions to include commitment to gender equality and full implementation of policy, guidelines and legislation relating to gender equality and naming equality
  • Advisory committee established or retained to oversee place naming/public art as per policy and legislation
    • Design or review Terms of Reference to guide the committee’s recruitment, behaviours and duties
    • Add a statement of commitment to gender equality including the intention to address the historic gender equality gap in place naming/public art through the full implementation of relevant policy or policies
    • In the membership composition area include necessity to meet representation and diversity goals and that all members act as allies for gender equality and diversity and attend training around gender equality
  • All staff and committee members must have an understanding of the organisation’s gender equality policy/plan and the objectives of relevant legislation and participate in gender equality training
  • Delegations will be vital to ensure proactive and systematic management of place naming. Ensure clear delegated authority lines are endorsed and used.

Place naming and public art on scale

  • New subdivisions are an important part of creating place naming equality in local government areas. New subdivisions can have tens or hundreds of new streets and places that require naming and public spaces where public art could be placed.
    Identify new subdivisions and the responsible organisations. Discuss the council’s equality vision and see how working collectively to achieve greater and more immediate impact could fast track parity.
    Example: Parklea Developments has subdivisions under construction in Wonthaggi and Officer. They worked closely with respective councils and the historical societies from each town to create a list of historical women to put forth for approval for street and park names within the new communities. Parklea are committed to commemorating people of all genders and achieving parity in their new developments.
  • Unnamed places – use the audit to identify and map the unnamed places and use the Name Bank to match suitable places to honour local women. Take the populated map out to public consultation and, upon endorsement, use to guide a bulk naming process.
  • Unsigned places – any place identified without signage provides a wonderful opportunity to make visible notable local women. Example: Olive Justice Place in Cowes now has a large display dedicated to Olive’s life and history.
  • Statue projects – example: In December 2022, the City of Melbourne committed to three new statues of prominent women to help address the massive gender imbalance in public art across the city. After a public engagement process that garnered over 1000 submissions nominating 185 different women, world-renowned suffragist Vida Goldstein was the first statue to be confirmed. This initiative is in partnership with A Monument of One’s Own and fundraising is being managed through The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

Visibility

  • High-profile sitesexample: Cardinia Shire Council recently identified the names and stories of six local women as possible names for the new suburb of Pakenham East.  The names were taken to public consultation and council recently endorsed the suburb name to be Alice Park with a main street to be named Honora. Very few high-profile sites are named after women, and this is a shining example of a commitment to advancing public commemoration equality.
  • Commemorative Tour – example: Finding Her, Australia’s first statewide women’s commemorative tour, holds the stories of over 60 women who have been commemorated in place through place naming, statues, plaques, murals, etc and a QR code is located on each site linking to each women’s story. Finding Her has been created to increase visibility of women’s contributions, raise awareness of the gap in public place commemoration and inspire continued action on a national level. New sites and names can be added to Finding Her, and Her Place Museum (HPM) encourages naming authorities across Australia to make contact and discuss opportunities.
  • Heritage street signsexample: Hume and Yarra Councils have rolled out street signage that includes historic information about the people the streets honour. While very few reflect the names of women, this is an impactful and easily replicable initiative that can be added to existing street sign designs.
  • Co-naming – with many prominent sites already named after men, the opportunity to co-name is incredibly important. Example: Recently, the suburb of Spence (ACT) was officially co-named to honour trailblazing political reformer, journalist, feminist and novelist Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910). The suburb was first named in 1972 to honour trade unionist and politician William Guthrie Spence. William and Catherine are not related but equally as significant to Australian history.

Using the Pulse Check, identify gaps and priority areas, then use the steps outlined in the above sections and attachments to create an organisational action plan. The action plan is to ensure focus remains on the key actions required to move towards place naming and public art equality while ensuring transparency and accountability.

Consider also including strategic, highly impactful and visible approaches as outlined in Section 6. A sample action plan has been created with all of the actions stated above, which can then be modified by the user to achieve a plan that focuses on identified gaps and needs.

Download sample action plan

 

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