A fresh pair of eyes | New name for the region

IT WAS ALL YELLOW: Ours is a region of canola, gold and wattle in bloom. So the name it should be given is obvious.
IT WAS ALL YELLOW: Ours is a region of canola, gold and wattle in bloom. So the name it should be given is obvious.

Ex-Sydneysider STUART PEARSON looks at Bathurst and its future from the perspective of a new resident.

Before Europeans arrived across the mountains, the first inhabitants who lived in this area for 60,000 years called it Wiradyuri ngurambang (Wiradyuri country).

Wiradyuri lands stretch from the Great Dividing Range in the east to the wide-open plains to the west. 

It is criss-crossed by the Lachlan, Macquarie, Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers. 

A vast area covering about a third of NSW, the land was abundant and plentiful. It provided the Wiradyuri people with a rich harvest of diverse fauna and flora.

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The first white settlers across the mountains founded a frontier town - Bathurst - then at the very limits of civilisation. Gradually, European settlement spread westwards until most of the country had been occupied. 

Along the way, names were given to geographic features, towns, then districts and finally regions. Sometimes the names were Aboriginal in origin, such as Canowindra and Wagga Wagga, but more often they were not.

The region in which Bathurst is located has gradually become known as the Central West, but that description is by no means universally accepted. 

The biogeographic classification for the same area is Central Tablelands; the weather bureau refers to this area as the Central Western Slopes and Plains. NSW Department of Health classifies this region as Western NSW, and the police simply call it the Western Region.

Not too many people know this, but in the late 1940s the NSW Government seriously considered merging Bathurst and Orange into one region called Mitchell. This proposal did not eventuate, but its legacy can be seen in the naming of Mitchell Conservatorium of Music.

Now, the latest development is to group regions into “super” regions for tourism, economic development and ease of government administration.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is spearheading this move together with the NSW Department of Industry by lumping together the Central West with the Orana region, creating one large, attractive area of NSW in which to invest and visit.

The word Orana was selected by popular competition in 1972 to rename an area formerly known as the North Western region of NSW. At the time, it was thought the word was Aboriginal for “welcome”, but in fact its origin is from the Pacific Islands!

Many of us would remember the Australian song Carol Of The Birds, in which the chorus is: “Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.” 

The song was published in 1948 and the lyricist borrowed the name from one of the most popular Aboriginal naming books of the day, in which it was claimed that Orana was Aboriginal for “welcome”.

Unfortunately, this book (List Of New South Wales Aboriginal Place Names And Their Meanings by W. W. Thorpe, 1921) was notoriously inaccurate and included any number of non-Aboriginal names, simply because they sounded native or were pleasant on the ear. 

Orana is not an Aboriginal word at all. In fact, it is Polynesian!

If the Central West and Orana regions continue to be described as one geographical area, then what should the combined zone be called?

Ripening wheat and cereal crops stretch a golden carpet towards the horizon. Canola, with its yellow flowers, create a golden patchwork across the land. 

The search for gold in the 1850s developed this land, as it still does today with Cadia Valley Operations, one of the largest gold mines in Australia. 

Wattle trees when in bloom produce golden flowers that are so spectacular that the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) figures prominently on the Australian Coat of Arms.

If we must come up with a name for this expansive area of the state, which covers a third of NSW, I would think the “Golden West” would be a perfect appellation.

Brilliant Bathurst – stuart@bigpond.com