An iconic Sydney river could soon be renamed Goolay'yari under a proposal being pushed as part of a new Aboriginal partnership strategy (pictured, the Cooks River in Sydney)

A Sydney river could soon be renamed Goolay’yari under a proposal being pushed by local councils as part of a new Aboriginal partnership strategy. 

The Cooks River runs from a park in Bankstown in Sydney’s southwest through Strathfield South, Tempe and Botany Bay in the city’s south.

The river was named after British Explorer James Cook after he landed in Botany Bay in 1770 and claimed possession for the UK of Australia’s east coast. 

An Aboriginal partnership group is consulting with Sydney Water and a series of local councils over the proposal to rename or dual name the waterway. 

‘It’s not really renaming, it’s giving back the name that it’s always had,’ Dharawal man Gregory Andrews told ABC Radio Sydney.

‘It doesn’t detract from James Cook and all of his achievements as a great explorer of his time. If he had ‘discovered’ it today, he wouldn’t call it after himself. 

‘He probably would ask what it was called.’

An iconic Sydney river could soon be renamed Goolay'yari under a proposal being pushed as part of a new Aboriginal partnership strategy (pictured, the Cooks River in Sydney)

An iconic Sydney river could soon be renamed Goolay’yari under a proposal being pushed as part of a new Aboriginal partnership strategy (pictured, the Cooks River in Sydney)

Goolay’yari is the local Eora word for the Pelican Dreaming story.

An island on the river, known as Fatima Island, looks like the shape of a pelicans foot, giving the waterway its name, Mr Andrews said. 

He said the river was once an important escape route for Aboriginal people who clashed with British settlers. 

Mr Andrews said in modern times, the river represented a safe space where people could take a break from the ‘hustle and bustle’. 

The Bayside, Inner West, Strathfield and Canterbury-Bankstown councils will continue to discuss the renaming with the Cooks River Alliance. 

It’s understood a final decision is yet to be made.  

Dharawal man Gregory Andrews says Fatima Island (pictured) on the Cooks River looks like the shape of a pelicans foot when viewed on Google Earth

Dharawal man Gregory Andrews says Fatima Island (pictured) on the Cooks River looks like the shape of a pelicans foot when viewed on Google Earth

It comes after Fraser Island off the Queensland coast officially returned to the name K’gari, the name given to it by the native Butchulla people.

The renaming was the result of a long-fought campaign by Indigenous elders.

A renaming ceremony took place in late 2021 attended by Butchulla elders and Queensland’s Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon. 

Uluru became the first landmark in the Northern Territory to be given a dual name when it was renamed Ayers Rock/Uluru in 1993. 

In 2002, the titles were reversed with its current official name Uluru/Ayers Rock.  

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