Moreland City Corps renamed to acknowledge First Nations people
By CLIFF WORTHING
The past, present and future came together as a key theme at the 26 February ceremony in Melbourne’s north, renaming Moreland City Corps to Merri-bek Corps.
“We acknowledge the faithful service of so many Salvos over the last 105 years under the Moreland Corps flag,” said Colonel Kelvin Merrett, Victoria Divisional Commander. “Our new flag is a symbol acknowledging the journey with our First Nations People, council, and local community.”
The process of changing the name of the corps to Merri-bek, in many ways, mirrored that of the local council. Elders of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people, traditional owners of the lands and waterways in the area, and other community representatives asked the city council to consider renaming the area.
Most participants in the community consultation process chose Merri-bek as the preferred name from a list of three proposed names. After being approved by the city council and Victorian Government, the change from Moreland City to Merri-bek City came into effect on 22 September 2022.
The main reason for the change was because Moreland was named after a 19th-century Jamaican slave plantation. Merri-bek means rocky country in the local Indigenous language.
“The Salvos fight for justice, so why would we align with something that causes harm,” said Lieutenant Steph Glover, Merri-bek Corps officer. “As we discover the truth, we should change.”
Previous Corps Officer Major Phil Inglis played a leading role in liaising with the city council about the name change and discussing with the corps leadership team the process of renaming the corps. “I’m just glad it has happened,” Phil said. “We finally reflect the values of our faith in the name of our meeting place.”
During the renaming ceremony, participants sang the 1990s worship song, ‘The Great Southland’, re-written by Geoff Bullock to, more appropriately, acknowledge First Nations peoples. They also sang ‘Rocky Country Home’, written by Merri-bek Corps member Jason Simmonds, specifically for the newly named corps.
Merri-bek Mayor Cr Angelica Panopolous, and CEO Cathy Henderson, attended the renaming ceremony. The mayor publicly thanked The Salvation Army for its “clear commitment to truth-telling.”
Sue Hodges, Divisional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Engagement Coordinator for NSW/ACT, acknowledged the importance of changing place names once Australians realise the racist past of the name or abuse, such as massacres of Indigenous populations.
“I think there needs to be a conviction of how not to keep causing hurt,” Sue said. “It may have sounded good at the time, but then needs to change once someone explains what is behind the name.”
“We thank God for our past but keenly anticipate our future as The Salvation Army Merri-bek,” said Steph. “We have our eyes fully focused on Jesus and where He is leading us.”
The song written by Jason Simmonds for the name-change ceremony:
Rocky Country Home
In this rocky country A land of rivers hills and plains So many people long for Hope We hear their cries of pain In Merri-bek a faithful people Arise to take their stand Bringing hope to those Across this land
Merri-bek Rocky country home We won’t reject The people all alone Wherever they need help We'll raise the rally cry Merri-bek there's Hope in Jesus Christ There is hope in Jesus Christ
In this rocky country There are bumps on the road We offer help to those in need We help to bare the load In Merri-bek a Hope-filled people Lift up a brand new song A Spirit revolution fuelled by Prayer to make us strong