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Ryan JS. Some Aboriginal Place-Names in the Richmond Tweed Area. 1963.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/11067
Some Aboriginal Place-Names in the Richmond Tweed Area
The subject of toponymy or the study of place-names has long been viewed with suspicion in Australia and consigned by serious scholars to some sort of lunatic fringe where the amateur antiquarian and etymologist have been allowed to sport themselves unchallenged. The bulk of the work to date has been occasional in appearance, uneven in scholarship and vague as to its overall aims. The reasons for this state of affairs in Australia would seem to be obvious - the subject has belonged to no recognized field and has not appealed sufficiently to any discipline ; the records are, at best, fragmentary and no general system of attack has been evolved ; the often ridiculous views of uninformed individuals have gained wide currency through the press ; no system of close analysis of the names of a given area has ever been given the correct sort of publicity. In view of the recently awakened interest in Australian place-names, it should be of interest to members of this society to see some of the methods of approach and analysis applied to names in an area with which they will already be reasonably familiar. It was noted of the subject in the British Isles that "The study of place-names may be said to stand to history and ethnology in somewhat the same relation as the study of fossils stands to geology. Each group or set of fossils represents, with more or less strictness, a distinct age of geologic time as, roughly speaking, does each group of place names represent a period of historic or prehistoric time." For Australia the statement needs modification, since Australia's early history was not recorded and before the coming of the white man the Aboriginal native knew no writing and kept no records. What history the Aboriginal names tell us is scarcely political or even tribal but rather concerned with the social life, the flora and the fauna and the prominent features of the topography. Aboriginal names in our area are a fair proportion of the whole, but where they have survived and not been replaced, in many instances there is no known interpretation of the significance. In spite of this limitation, the names do tell us something of the various matters once deemed worthy of attention and designation in the surrounding landscape.