Some of Australia’s place names are seriously messed up

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Beautiful Lake Eyre. Too bad the guy it was named after killed a whole bunch of people.

Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

To the rest of the world Australia is a pretty weird place, with its odd animals and plethora of quirky and rude place names.

But it’s the more benign place names that have a dark history. And one that’s been documented in a recently-released book by Australian author Eamon Evans, Mount Buggery To Nowhere Else.

Famed for its pleasant beaches and an abundance of kale-eating hipsters, the city of Fremantle’s name, for example, comes from British Royal Navy officer Sir Charles Howe Fremantle. A person of noble birth, his stature helped him escape punishment for a heinous crime.

“You take half an hour to research his life and he was in Australia in the first place because he raped a kitchen maid back in England and had to flee the country while he got sorted out,” Evans told Mashable.

The Queen Mary 2 cruise ship turning into Fremantle Harbour. Little do they know of its messed up history.

Image: Paul Kane/Getty Images

While his family paid off two witnesses and used their influence on the judiciary, Fremantle received a swift promotion to captain, sailing down in the spring of 1828 to claim the west of Australia’s coast for King George.

The nation’s largest lake and the lowest natural point, Lake Eyre has a similarly disturbing back story. The name came from English land explorer Edward Eyre, who later became a governor of Jamaica. He was the worst.

“He responded to a [Jamaican] riot of a couple of dozen people by ordering about 400 of them shot, then 150 hanged. It was a fairly major scandal back in the day,” Evans said.

A little bit of digging into Australia’s history and you’ll soon come across some dark stuff.

That riot was the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, a march led by hundreds of poor black people to protest the unjust arrest of a man accused of trespassing a plantation, as well as the poor economic conditions on the island.

The brutal reaction provoked controversy in Britain, with the Jamaica Committee created to urge that Eyre should be charged with mass murder. Eyre was removed from his colonial post, but was never prosecuted.

A little bit of digging into Australia’s history and you’ll soon come across some dark stuff.

Many of the towns and streets that line the country were named either in tribute to brutal men, based on racially oppressive concepts and practices, or even marked the site of many massacres against Aboriginal people.

Canberra, a.k.a cleavage.

Image: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

There’s also those names that are a bit lighter. Take the nation’s capital, Canberra, based on the word “Ngambri” which has long been thought as an Aboriginal name for the region meaning “meeting place,” although a recent discovery may prove different.

“These days it’s thought more likely to mean ‘in between breasts,’ like a valley in between two mountains,” Evans said.

It’s thought the name is derived from the Namadji people’s dialect of Ngarigo, which in “Ngambri” can be seen as akin to “cleavage.”

Knowing the city’s modern penchant for porn shops, it’s surprisingly fitting.

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Some of Australia’s place names are seriously messed up

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