Almost 50 years after Deakin University was founded, community members claim the institution should be renamed to confront the racist policies its namesake Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second prime minister.
Deakin vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin said a name change was not in the cards "If we simply expunge things from the record, what hope is there in learning from the mistakes of the past."
Deakin's VC has also said that Indigenous leaders and school staff did not want to change the institution's name.
Alfred Deakin served as Australian Prime Minister for three terms between 1903 and 1910, and was the nation’s first Attorney-General.
The Australian leader is also known for his involvement in creating the White Australia Policy and Australia’s stolen generations.
Deakin helped to pass the Aboriginal Protection Amendment Act of 1886, which led to the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.
He also restricted the number of non-white migrants coming to Australia through the White Australia Policy in 1901, predicting that “In another century, the probability is that Australia will be a white continent with not a black or even dark skin among its inhabitants.”
Deakin is not the only Australian higher education institution to grapple with a controversial name change.
In 2016 Monash University Student Council unanimously passed a motion to rename the John Medley Library due to Medley’s links to eugenics.
In 2017 the University of Melbourne changed the name of the Richard Bery Building for a similar reason linked to Bery's racist theories.
While a name change is not on the cards, Deakin University is tackling the topic through a seminar created in 2020 titled “We need to talk about Alfred Deakin and his ideals of a White Australia.”
The seminar acknowledges Alfred Deakin's divisive legislative legacy and his role in shaping Australia.Do you have an idea for a story?
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