BuzzFeed News has obtained Excel spreadsheets made by Transport for NSW outlining the hundreds of naming nominations for a new Sydney ferry, including a file titled "Nonsense Ferry Names" that features Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy.
Pemulwuy was an Aboriginal man who in the late 1700s resisted European settlement, starting with those aboard the First Fleet in 1788. His name was one of thousands noted as possibilities for a new Sydney ferry that was ultimately – and controversially – named "Ferry McFerryFace".
The documents contain a spreadsheet titled "Nonsense Ferry Names", and in the sub-category for Science and Arts & Culture, "Pemulwuy" is listed along with options such as "Hitler Did Nothing Wrong", "Steamed Hams" and "Halal Snack Pack".
There is already a ferry named Pemulwuy – it hit Sydney's inner harbour in August last year.
The internal documents, which were released following a freedom of information request by NSW Labor, also featured an email exchange between Transport for NSW staff discussing the more than 15,000 possible names. The summary file of nonsense names was apparently created "just to keep things lively!"
The emails also outline how Gadigal Elder Allen Madden was approached to review the final nine Aboriginal names included in the "Sydney Harbour Connections" category, but this did not include "Pemulwuy."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, New South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley described the situation as an example of the "ignorance and insensitivity towards Indigenous Australians" that exists in government.
“I am shocked and saddened that in 2018 this level of ignorance and insensitivity towards Indigenous Australians still exists in government," he said.
“Pemulwuy was a leader and a warrior and for his name to be on the same list as Ferry McFerryFace and other ridiculous names is just crass. Andrew Constance should apologise to the Aboriginal community.”
Transport for NSW has issued a statement to BuzzFeed News apologising for the inclusion of Pemulwuy’s name on the list.
"The inclusion of Pemulwuy’s name in the list of ‘nonsense’ names was an unfortunate human error and Transport for NSW sincerely apologises for this," a spokesperson said.
"Transport for NSW has great respect for our Indigenous people, their history and culture.
"Pemulwuy and another Indigenous man, Bungaree, were both included in the list for final voting in the Science, Environment and Innovation category. Both names now features on a new Inner Harbour ferry."
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Brad Esposito at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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