City News

Suffragette City

BY MICHAEL FORNO

The City of Sydney is in the process of settling on a name for Barangaroo’s new plaza linking the waterfront precinct to Wynyard train station.

Since the plaza’s construction earlier this year it’s been given the working name Napoleon Plaza, due to its proximity to Napoleon Street. The Transport for New South Wales authority began using the unofficial title, and now the City of Sydney has to decide on a permanent name.

Convict Francis Girard originally named Napoleon Street after the French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte. Mr Girard was an officer during the Napoleonic wars and was sent to Australia as a convict but was pardoned from serving his full sentence. He went on to run a successful flourmill on what is now known as Napoleon Street.

Submissions over the official naming of the plaza have been accepted by the City of Sydney, and the council will have the final say. Napoleon Plaza is the Council’s preferred name, as it will “facilitate greater public awareness of the site’s location.”

The Council’s plans are outlined in a naming proposal filed with the city’s Corporate, Finance and Properties Committee, earlier this year. The proposal outlines the city’s official preference for the naming of Napoleon Plaza and says that Transport for New South Wales, The Barangaroo Development Authority and Lend Lease are all in agreement over naming the plaza after Napoleon.

CEO of the Council, Monica Barone, expressed her support for Napoleon Plaza earlier this year in a press release.

“This new plaza connects with Napoleon Street, and its history encourages us to take inspiration from one of Sydney’s earliest successful business leaders.

“The name Napoleon Plaza will help link this site to its heritage, and make it easier for local residents and visitors to find and enjoy,” she said.

However, the idea of naming a Sydney plaza after a rapacious French military ruler has caused some discontent among councillors and residents alike.

Sydney councillor Linda Scott told City Hub that she is backing an effort to rename the plaza Jessie Street Plaza, after the Australian suffragette and human rights activist.

“Some people want the plaza to be named after a convict’s hero, Napoleon Bonaparte,” she said.

“But I think it is more appropriate that we recognise the work of an amazing Australian and suffragette, Jessie Street.”

Cr Scott has been advocating for the name change within council and her sentiment is shared among others within the community.

Feminist and resident of Sydney city, Eleanor Taylor, believes in recognising historically significant locals.

“The plaza should be renamed to reflect the work of an Australian,” she told City Hub.

“Jessie Street was an aboriginal rights campaigner and suffragette, and it is important that her contributions to Sydney and Australia are remembered.”

“There is such strong focus on European history in Australia, at the expense of our own local history. It’s small changes like these that contribute to bigger changes and developments in attitudes about our own history,” she said.

The council is ultimately responsible for the naming of the plaza, and the date for a final outcome is yet to be announced.