Let’s give WA a name.

The name Western Australia has always been a hold-over name until such time as Western Australia discovered its own identity. The time has come Western Australia to stand up and tell the world who you really are. The failure to do so risks putting our economy and livelihoods at risk.

Preference for a name would have to be something that is descriptive of the ancient landscape of the State of Western Australia and incorporates the indigenous people’s history as well as the European history.

Imagine you live in the Northern hemisphere and you plan to visit Australia – just once in your life. Where do you choose? Will your imaginings be taken by names such as Queens-land or Victoria? What about the intriguing name of New South Wales? Will it really be like southern Wales? What fantasy do these names conjure up? Surely the boldness of these place names invoke a sense of place and destination, without reference to a more significant geographical place?

Or will you choose to visit Western Australia? What is Western Australia you ask? Will you be swept away with visions of yourself sitting in the heart of a far-away exotic land? Will you feel that you have spent your money wisely, by travelling to the ‘Western’ part of a country you have always wanted to visit? And when you arrive home, will your friends be impressed that you visited the ‘Western’ end of Australia?
I suggest that the answer is surely no or you will at least, be always curious as to what the main area of Australia (that not called ‘Western’) had to offer.

This is the problem with developing tourism on any designated ‘Western’ end of a country. Everyone wants to visit the country proper. For example, few travellers will initially choose to visit a place known as ‘Western Croatia’ – unless of course they have previously ‘done’ Croatia proper.

Even if we adopted the name ‘New Holland’, an indigenous name or something new such as ‘Gondwalia’, any one of them would most likely have better outcomes for tourism in Western Australia than sticking with ‘Western Australia’.

And there are other good reasons why Western Australia should be renamed. It could be argued that foreign tertiary student numbers would increase. It might also be that business and real estate investment from interstate and overseas may also increase. If Western Australia could become a more fascinating and prosperous place to live, as a result of a name change, then it should seriously be considered.

The name ‘Western Australia’ is not a descriptive term. It does not say that the State is unique in any way. It does not reflect the vastness and diversity of the landscape. It does not suggest a significance or importance. It does not reflect the ancient origins of its land and its original inhabitants. It is simply an area on the continent of Australia referenced by a compass direction. To put it more bluntly, it is simply a geographical location of a more significant geographical place (Australia).

Being named ‘Western Australia’ (in 1832) did have its practical purposes, however there was probably very little thought put into coming up with the name beyond making a territorial claim. The name could have simply appeared on a cartographer’s map and the name somehow stuck.

At the time WA was named, (1832) there were approximately just 1000 Europeans inhabiting the whole State. There would have been no thought of consulting the aboriginal population about a name. The State was mostly unexplored by the Europeans. Its vast wealth was not yet discovered. It had previously been deemed as unsuitable for settlement by passing explorers. There was very little known about its flora and fauna. In short, there was no collective understanding of what this newly claimed region had to offer. ‘New Holland’ was an existing name for the Northern part of the region, a name given by the Dutch but the latest arrivals were intent on claiming the region for England. It is therefore understandable that they adopted the broad, generic name of ‘Western Australia’, in the absence of any detailed knowledge of the region.

In considering a change of name, it will be difficult for many to consider anything other than Western Australia. For most, they see themselves as “Western Australian”. Some may claim an attachment to the name for historical reasons such as a family member who may have fought and died for Western Australia. Despite any name change however, they will always be ‘Western Australian’. That fact will never change; just the same way as someone from NSW has always been an ‘Eastern Stater’. What is being proposed is giving Western Australia and its inhabitants an identity beyond its place on a map; beyond just being someone from ‘western’ Australia.

A new name for Western Australia should not be done for the sake of it, or as an exercise in changing history, but to explore the potential benefits that could accrue as a result of a change in name. Such suggested benefits may be in areas such as business investment, tourism, international tertiary education and trade.
This article is about giving the geographical region of Australia, known as ‘Western Australia’, its own identity. It is not proposing independence from the Commonwealth of Australia and it does not present a case to see WA ‘go it alone’. Western Australia will always be the ‘western’ region of Australia. Nothing will change that fact; however, the idea of giving WA an identity, other than its geographical location within Australia, should definitely be explored.


Having established a small settlement in Albany late in 1826, Major Lockyer claimed the whole of the continent some weeks later on the 21st January, 1827. Similarly, on the 2nd May, 1829 Captain Fremantle took possession of the western side of New Holland on behalf of the British Crown. He proclaimed the western region of Australia as part of His Majesty’s Empire and named it the ‘Swan River Colony’. This was certainly descriptive of the settlements along the Swan River but it was in no way descriptive of the vast tracts of land beyond the Swan River catchment. To the bureaucrats in Sydney and in England, the geographical region being proclaimed was the ‘Western’ region of the continent; that which the Dutch had much earlier named New Holland. As a result, the name was changed from the Swan River Colony to the more apt and all-embracing title of ‘Western Australia’ on the 6th February, 1832.

There are numerous examples of name changes occurring in Australia’s early settlement years. There was no State of Victoria up until 1851. Up until 1851, the State of Victoria was part of New South Wales, despite the much earlier settlement of Melbourne being established in 1837. Similarly, what we know to be Queensland was once (for a brief period) separate from New South Wales and called ‘North Australia’. It was not until 1859 that Queensland became separate in name from New South Wales.

During Australia’s early European period, the continent could be broadly divided between New Holland in the North West and New South Wales along the East Coast. Only later did the name Australia become an all-encompassing reference to the whole of the continent (1824). Matthew Flinders first proposed the name of Australia in 1804 but it was 20 years later (after his death) that the ‘powers that be’ adopted the name ‘Australia’ in 1824.

Within WA, there was the settlement at Albany and then later, the Swan River Colony. In 1832, the Swan River Colony was officially renamed Western Australia. This brought the Western territory clearly under the protection of His Majesty, King William IV. The name Western Australia thus became a statement of Empire rather than a descriptive, individualised name. The use of the name ‘New Holland’ only dissipated over time and interestingly, the Dutch continued to make reference to New Holland up until the end of the 1800’s.

Renaming the territory would have sent a clear message to the French and any other foreign power in search of new land that the Western territory, broadly referred to as ‘New Holland’ was now part of an all-encompassing, newly named ‘Australia’. Settlement in Western Australia also lessened the likelihood the French could use the region as a base and cut off trade between New South Wales and Britain in any future war.

The population of WA has since grown significantly with the discovery of gold and other mineral deposits. The resultant wealth has largely established WA’s importance to the rest of Australia and to the rest of the World. It may therefore be time to give Western Australia a name that is representative of its matured status.


If we look at current economic issues related to Western Australia, debate continues about distribution of mining royalties and the Federal allocation of GST. These very important economic issues are somewhat entwined in the perceptions Eastern State Governments have toward Western Australia. It is suggested a perception of ‘ownership’ rather than ‘mutual respect’ is ever present and this may somewhat be due to the name ‘Western Australia’. It is suggested that the title or name ‘Western Australia’ has coupled with it a number of implied negatives. Within Sydney and Melbourne for example, the Western suburbs of both of those cities are regarded as less desirable places to live. When trying to attract domestic tourists, this association with being ‘West’ plays a subconscious role in where people choose to book their holidays.

The pride shown in Western Australia by its residents, in the largest and arguably wealthiest State, is very evident. However, being a West Australian has by its very name, an implication of ‘not being part of Australia proper’. The name implies it is not part of the ‘real’ or perceived Australia and that it is west of the ‘actual’ Australia. This implied view of Western Australia is damaging the local economy. The name ‘Western Australia’ stifles efforts to attract business investment, is not as attractive to tourists and may in other unforeseen ways be damaging to the local economy.
A look at tourism statistics in Australia would also suggest international tourists prefer to visit what is seen as ‘Australia’ proper, rather than the ‘Western’ designated area. The East-coast States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania each have independent names. They are not geographical regions. They each have distinctive, independent names which suggest their own character and degree of intrigue. The combined Eastern States are not generally referred to as Eastern Australia. They are seen as ‘Australia proper’ and everything else is referenced against them; Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory.
A similar case can also be made for a changing the names for South Australia or the Northern Territory. Each of course, is perceived differently by those outside of the State and has its own set of complex issues. At the heart of this whole discussion though, is by giving a region a geographical location name, there is an immediate and implied second ratedness to it.

So what would be an appropriate and deserving name for Western Australia? Many will claim the name should never change and that will be the most likely outcome of this discussion. However, not making a name change will forever place the State at a disadvantage. There will always be a drawback to being referred to as ‘Western’ Australia. Competing on the national stage to attract tourists and investment will always be more challenging. Even mounting arguments about the fair distribution of GST revenue is made more difficult.


Having laid bare the reasons why we should re-name Western Australia, it is only appropriate to suggest an alternative. This is not an easy task. The easiest option would be to adopt the original European name for the region, being ‘New Holland”. This is not being suggested as it is arguably disrespectful to the rights of indigenous people who inhabited the land at the time New Holland was named.
The suggestion of an indigenous name would therefore be welcomed beyond what is being suggested here.

Primary in any consideration of a name change would be not to do any further injustice to the indigenous Australians who have occupied this land for a far longer period than Europeans.

Preference for a name would have to be something that is descriptive of the ancient landscape of the State of Western Australia and incorporates the indigenous people’s history as well as the European history.

The name ‘Gondwalia’ is derived from Gondwanaland. The name ‘Gondwana’ itself is a region of India from which Gondwanaland derives its name.

Gondwanaland is used in paleogeography and biogeography to describe an ancient geographical supercontinent of which Australia was a distinct and somewhat unchanged feature. The intent is not to adopt or take over the broader academic meaning and significance of Gondwanaland, but to establish a separate identity as simply the State of Gondwalia (GWA).

Gondwalia is unique and would be attractive to foreign travellers. It immediately suggests an ancient landscape. Gondwalia also neatly incorporate the abbreviation ‘WA’ as in GondWAlia. The appropriate State abbreviation would then be ‘GWA’. This would neatly sit in with VIC, TAS, NSW and QLD as suitable abbreviations.
Under the proposed change, a Western Australian would be known as a Gondwalian.

There would of course be a cost associated with changing the name of a State. Consideration would then be about the cost versus benefit of making a name change. Because these names incorporate ‘WA’, any transition to the suggested name could be made over decades and thus not involve significant cost. For an extended period the use of WA or GWA could be considered acceptable.

Gondwalia (GWA) would stand alongside Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania as States within the Commonwealth of Australia with strong distinctive names; names that are suggestive of self-importance. This is not achieved with adhering to the name, ‘Western Australia’.

Western Australia is merely descriptive of a region of Australia. It is not a name which does justice to its size, its landscape, its indigenous people, its flora and fauna or its contribution to the Australian economy. On the economic front, a change of name would be a massive boost for inbound tourism.

Matthew Flinders died in 1814. He never got to see his name for the continent of Australia come into existence (Australia being the name adopted in 1824). The author of this paper is fully aware that he may also have well and truly ‘passed on’ before this idea gains favour. It is however out there for discussion. This is about starting the conversation – in full knowledge it might take another 20 years or more for this idea to be realised.

This paper does not represent the views of the Republican movement or that of the Monarchist’s. This paper represents an entirely new discussion.

The purpose of this discussion is to consider the economic benefit that can be derived from giving Western Australia independence through name. It aims to establish an argument for wealth creation by simply re-establishing the identity of the vast State of Western Australia.


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Let us Give WA a Name

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