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Place names often commemorate an event, person or place to ensure the preservation of our cultural heritage. Examples include recognising Traditional Owners, cultural events or a theme such as Australian war contributions.

Naming authorities and community have an important role to play in recognising worthy individuals through the commemorative naming process.

Commemorative naming could acknowledge a specific person, an important part of a person's life, or link to something they contributed to the wider community through service or sacrifice.

There are several specific requirements to consider when proposing a commemorative name. A summary is provided below and more information can be found within the Naming rules for places in Victoria (naming rules) Principle I – Using commemorative names.

Gender equality

An important consideration when proposing a commemorative name is gender equality, covered by the naming rules Principle G – Gender equality.

Gender equality is when people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Everyone is affected by gender inequality - women, men, trans and gender-diverse people, children, and families. It impacts people of all ages and backgrounds.

With the release of the Victorian Government's Gender equality strategy and action plan a new target has been set:

Geographic Names Victoria will work with naming authorities, including local government, to increase the commemoration of women in place naming, by setting a level of 70% of new requests for commemorative naming of new roads, placenames and landmarks to be achieved within the lifetime of the Strategy.

The Finding Her digital resource is a great example of supporting the commemoration of Victorian women. Naming authorities can use this resource to locate women within a local area who could be commemorated. Finding Her offers the opportunity to elevate female commemoration across Victoria.

VICNAMES is Victoria's register of geographic names and contains over 45,000 place names and more than 200,000 roads. VICNAMES can be searched to find the names of places and roads in Victoria as well as historical information related to each name.

Not all place names we know and use will have been formally registered. In these instances, the place name should be registered and appropriate historical information added to the register to tell the story behind the name, including why it was chosen. This ensures historical information is available to future generations and provides transparency in the naming process.

Commemorative name requirements

Commemorative naming can help establish a link to place and preserve our cultural heritage. Anyone can propose a commemorative name, and naming authorities are responsible for submitting naming proposals and ensuring they comply with the naming rules.

Naming authorities include local government authorities, Traditional Owner groups, State government departments and in some cases, private organisations.

When proposing a commemorative name, the following points must be considered:

If named after a person, that person should be or have been held in strong regard by the community, with preference given to unofficial names used by the immediate community.

When deciding on the assignment of a commemorative name, naming authorities should consider:

  • the person's achievements
  • relevant history and association with the area
  • the significance of the family/person to the area/land.

For example, a family that has been associated with an area for at least 25 years.

A detailed biography of the person being commemorated must be included in any proposal submitted to Geographic Names Victoria (GNV). For more information, refer to the naming rules Section 6 – Initiating a proposal.

The names of people who are still alive must be avoided because community attitudes and opinions can change over time.

Commemorative names of a deceased person should be applied no less than two years posthumously. If a naming authority wishes to name within two years, it is required to seek an exemption; refer to exemptions information below.

A commemorative name applied to a locality (suburb) or road may use the last name or the first name of a person, although it is preferred that only the last name be used.

A commemorative name applied to a feature can use the first name and last name of a person, although it is preferred that only one name be used.

The initials of a given name must not be used in any instance.

This approach ensures that emergency and postal services are not delayed because of the inconsistent application of a name. For example, Smith Park is a clearer name than John Edward Smith Park because the public might use John Park, Edward Park, John Smith Park, J. E. Smith Park or J. E. S. Park.

If a name is duplicated, consider using a first or middle name or a locally used name. However, the naming authority should contact GNV for further advice.

Naming Authorities can search all registered and recorded place names in Victoria using the VICNAMES register. They can also check the register for duplicated place names within 30 kilometres.

For more detailed information, refer to the naming rules:

Lodging a commemorative naming proposal

Further advice regarding lodgement of a naming proposal can be found within the naming rules Section 6 – Initiating a proposal.

When lodging a request with GNV, supporting evidence is required that documents the naming authority’s attempts to gain the consent of the family of the person at the centre of the naming proposal. Documents might include:

  • copies of letters sent to the family
  • copies of newspaper advertisements
  • internet or social media posts calling for consent or contact details of the family.

When a naming authority is unable to locate existing family members, the naming authority may use a newspaper notice, internet or social media posts advertising the proposed name to also call for consent from the family and/or request family contact details from the community. Refer to the naming rules – Section 7.2.4 Build awareness of the proposal and invite feedback. Any response from the family should be included in the proposal sent to GNV.

If a naming authority has exhausted avenues to contact families and the proposal is the name of a person who passed away at least 70 years ago, GNV will consider the naming proposal.

Exemptions and naming after living people

Exemptions to commemorate a living person are strongly discouraged and are generally not permitted.

In exceptional circumstances where a naming authority wishes to seek an exemption to any of the requirements listed above and name a road, feature or locality after a living person, they must apply in writing to the Registrar of Geographic Names. This must be done before any public consultation or a decision is made.

Consent from the person should also be sought before any exemption request is submitted to GNV.

The naming authority must provide a strong rationale that supports the exemption request and outline the reasons for proposing a living person's name. Reasons may include but are not limited to:

  • evidence about the person’s achievements that are of national or state significance
  • relevant history and association to the area which ensures a link to place.

Providing a rationale or fulfilling these points does not mean the Registrar will provide an exemption. Each case is considered on its own merits.

Page last updated: 15/11/23