Of course, all of Australia is indigenous land, including the Alps. Despite colonisation and dislocation, Aboriginal communities have maintained connections with the Alps and have been re-asserting that connection in recent years.

Traditional owner groups have been involved in reclaiming of language, and this includes advocating for landscape features like mountains being re-named with their original or other relevant names.

This happened in the case of The Jaithmathangs, a rocky peak on the western side of the Bogong High Plains, which had previously been called The Niggerheads. They were renamed in 2009, after consultation with the Indigenous community.  The Jaithmathang are an indigenous group with connection to the High Plains. This renaming has happened extensively in The Grampians in western Victoria, which are also known as Gariwerd in one of the local languages, either the Jardwadjali or Djab Wurrung language. Peter Gardner has recorded the extensive range of indigenous names to be found in the Victorian Alps.

There has been a long conversation about the name of our highest mountain, Kosciusko. There have been proposals for dual naming – using the current name in conjunction with a traditional name (as happens with Uluru/ Ayers Rock).

It would appear that the push is gaining momentum.

About Regional reports:

Snowy Valley’s Council who have commissioned a report to help guide the next steps in any renaming.

However, the peak local Aboriginal advisory committee to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Polish community have issued a joint statement to Region Media flagging the course of action needed in any dual-naming process.

Speaking on behalf of the Southern Kosciuszko National Park Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Committee and Kosciuszko Heritage Incorporated (KHI) is Aunty Deanna Davison, Monaro Ngarigo Elder; Iris White, Chairperson of the Southern Kosciuszko MoU Committee; Ernestyna Skurjat-Kozek, President of KHI; and Andrzej Kozek, Vice President of KHI.

Both groups support the dual naming as identified in the Kosciuszko Plan of Management, “providing the name is one agreed to by the Monaro-Ngarigo People,” the statement says.

Polish explorer Paweł Edmund Strzelecki named the 2,228-metre mound in 1840, in honour of Polish freedom fighter, General Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

In the 13 years since the Kosciuszko Plan of Management was adopted, Ngarigo and Polish leaders have come together around the idea of dual-naming.

Perhaps the high point of that growing understanding came in 2017 with a Ngarigo delegation travelling to Poland.

“The ensuing years have seen the development of a deep respect and genuine friendship between us, fully respectful of each other’s heritage and stakeholdership in this issue,” the statement reads.

The two groups are keen to move forward on the idea but suggesting a careful course of action because as they say the issue is “fraught with complexity and competing interests.”

“While the Kosciuszko massif rests on the traditional lands of the Monaro-Ngarigo People there is no agreement regarding traditional names as each surrounding people and language group may know [Kosciuszko] by different names.”

In raising it at the Jindabyne candidates forum, Ms Francis put forward the Aboriginal name as being Kunama Namadji (Pron: Koo-nar-ma Nam-a-ji), “Kumama is the Ngarigo word for snow and Namadji means mountain range,” Ms Francis says.

Region Media understands there could be as many as six different Aboriginal names for the peak.

“Consequently, we believe that there should be due diligence applied to who speaks for the Country and extensive research and investigation undertaken to identify the Monaro-Ngarigo language name for it,” the joint statement reads.

“There must be proper engagement of all those groups who may have an interest in this matter before any proposal for dual naming is considered and progressed.

“Until the above steps are taken, the name of Kosciuszko for Mount Kosciuszko should remain as is, in agreement with the Kosciuszko Plan of Management.”

Highlighting the shared understanding both groups have come to, the statement ends with, “The Polish community recognizes the inherent sovereignty of the Monaro-Ngarigo People over their traditional lands including Mount Kosciuszko.”

“We would also like to see more information, made available to the public regarding the value and significance of the current name of Mount Kosciuszko, as related to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a champion of liberty, freedom, equal rights and a supporter of indigenous people.”

From here, both groups say they will continue to work with the Geographical Names Board to consider and validate the best and most appropriate Aboriginal words to use in any dual naming.

UPDATE. Since the report above (May 2019), the ABC has provided some extra reporting on the differing views about the most appropriate indigenous name to use. This is complicated by the number of names under consideration.

“Ngarigo elder and Tumbarumba resident Uncle John Casey said the peak was a spiritually significant place for Ngarigo people.

“It’s been Kunama Namadgi for 4,000 years, since we’ve been on country, until the white man came in the early 1800s and that’s when they changed it.”

He suggested there could be as many as 20 different Indigenous names for the mountain, but said not all were Ngarigo names”.

However, some in the local indigenous community oppose the use of this name:

“Ngarigo woman Iris White is chairperson of the Southern Kosciuszko Executive Advisory Committee, which was set up to link the management of Kosciuszko National Park with traditional owners.

She said the conversation over dual names had been going on for a long time, and that the current proposal was offensive to Ngarigo people.

“That name is not from our language. It’s offensive because in some of our languages Kunama actually means faeces.”

She urged the Geographical Names Board to consult broadly, saying there were at least six different Indigenous groups that should be part of the conversation.

“It’s complex. There are competing interests and there needs to be a due diligence process demonstrated before the Geographical Names Board decides to make any changes.