Place Names Committee

Aboriginal or dual naming of a geographic feature

Aboriginal place names from more than 100 different languages and dialects covered the Northern Territory (NT) before colonisation.

While many continue to be used today, others were replaced by non-Aboriginal place names.

Aboriginal and dual naming provides an opportunity to:

In the NT, generally a dual name has two distinct name parts (separated by a solidus (/)):

The Committee recognises that there may be more than one Aboriginal name for a particular geographic feature. It therefore seeks to maintain flexibility in how dual naming can be implemented in the NT context.

The dual name should be used in full in all official documents and publications, however in other publications either name part can be used individually.

The order of the name parts is determined by the Minister following consultation with interested parties, and with consideration of the Place Names Committee’s recommendation.

Find out more about the guidelines that apply to place name requests by reading how places are named.

Improving information about processes

The Committee is currently developing an Aboriginal and dual naming policy to improve existing processes and increase awareness of the opportunity to apply Aboriginal names to places, through approval of both standalone Aboriginal place names and dual names.

This does not prevent Aboriginal or dual naming requests from being progressed in the meantime.

In 2019, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL) hosted Aboriginal Place Names forums in Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin to hear from the community about the opportunities and challenges for Aboriginal place naming in the NT.

Read the consultation's outcomes report PDF (6.4 MB).

Places that can't have a dual name

Dual names cannot generally be given to places other than geographic and topographic features and some parks.

Dual naming is not supported for any place name that forms a part of an address such as:

This is to avoid potential confusion for emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance and other service providers.

Find out more about generic terms that are commonly used in the NT to describe geographic or topographic features.

History of dual naming in the Territory

The NT was the first Australian jurisdiction and a world leader in officially incorporating dual naming in its naming practices and approving dual names for geographic features.

The most well-known example is Uluru or Ayers Rock.

Uluru / Ayers Rock

In 1873, Ayers Rock (and Mount Olga) were named by the South Australian Government (recorded in South Australian Parliamentary Paper 48 of 1873).

Since 1894, the names Uluru (and Kata Tjuta) in varying forms have been recorded, though not as widely as their English name equivalents.

On 15 December 1993, the first official dual named feature in the Northern Territory was registered - Ayers Rock / Uluru.

In 2002, following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs, the order of the dual names was officially changed to Uluru / Ayers Rock.

Read more about Uluru / Ayers Rock in the Place Names Register.