Place names are universal in the human world – “where are you from?” is perhaps one of the most common universal questions. What we call places is important to people and communities – place names hold particular meaning, give a sense of place and assist us in locating ourselves in the world.

Geographical features and places in Western Australia were named by Aboriginal peoples long before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people. These names aren’t arbitrary – they are attached to an Aboriginal group’s understanding of its history, culture, rights and responsibilities to the lands.

2019 was the United Nations international year of Indigenous languages. Minister for Lands Hon Ben Wyatt MLA and Minister for Local Government Hon David Templeman MLA used this as a platform to encourage local governments to find opportunities to apply and recognise Aboriginal names – whether by naming features, renaming or dual naming existing features.

To support this initiative, Landgate worked closely with key stakeholders across government and industry to develop the Aboriginal and Dual Naming Guidelines. The guidelines supplement the official naming policy and will give the broader community greater understanding of the process and requirements for applying Aboriginal names.

“The Aboriginal naming initiative has presented Landgate with an opportunity to work closely with stakeholders to truly recognise the historical and cultural importance of Aboriginal language and culture,” Landgate Chief Executive Graeme Gammie said.

“One of the criteria required for naming a location is that the preference be meaningful and relevant to the specific area. This is especially important in terms of Aboriginal naming.

“The stories behind the names are as important as the name itself, which should acknowledge and preserve the cultural heritage of Aboriginal people. So, when considering naming actions, we want to ensure local governments have the knowledge and resources available to identify suitable Aboriginal naming opportunities confidently and considerately.”

Although proposals to name and rename geographical features are usually community driven through local government, there is still a formal process to undertake. Under the delegated authority of the Minister for Lands, Landgate is responsible for administering all official naming actions for Western Australia in line with Landgate’s policies and standards. These, in turn, are aligned to national and international naming best practice.

To ensure Western Australia is applying best practice to naming, Landgate will be undertaking a full review of the official naming policy, including consultation with industry. The Geographic Names Committee, on which there is UDIA representation, will be engaged to provide ongoing advice during the review period.

For any UDIA members looking to utilise local languages through place names, please view the guidelines on Landgate’s website in the first instance. The relevant local government can be contacted for advice and support for preparing a place names proposal.

Further advisory support is available by Landgate at any time throughout the proposal’s development. Questions can be directly forwarded to Landgate’s Location Data Maintenance Team at or PH: 92737200.