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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

Why Pat Morton?

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Pat Morton Lookout sign, Lennox Head. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Jeff Johnson is raising a motion to re-name culturally significant local sites at today’s Ballina Council meeting.

In the wake of another bruising 26 January commemoration, Cr Johnson told Echonetdaily, ‘I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time, practically every time I go to Pat Morton Lookout (Lennox Headland), which has amazing views to Cape Byron and Broken Head.

‘Who is Pat Morton and why is this amazing place named after him?’ he asks.

In the ‘Indigenous Acknowledgement’ notice of motion to be debated today, Cr Johnson requests:

  1. That Council acknowledges the long and enduring association the Bundjalung Nation and Aboriginal people have with the land within the Ballina Shire and beyond.
  2. That Council Liaise with JALI Local Aboriginal Land Council cultural representatives to design a process for Aboriginal place-naming, including naming of local sites with Aboriginal cultural significance.

Pat Morton Lookout car park this week. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Johnson said 2021 is a time to focus on ‘continuing the journey of healing and reconciliation with our First Nations brothers and sisters.’

He said the small but significant change to the lyrics of the national anthem filled him with hope that the journey of reconciliation will continue.

‘The word ‘young’ was clearly controversial, historically incorrect and disrespectful given Australia has the oldest continuous human culture and society in the world,’ he said.

Appropriate names needed

Cr Johnson has suggested that prominent landmarks in the Ballina Shire and beyond should be recognised by their Aboriginal names and their cultural significance highlighted.

‘While we do have “information boards and stories” on the coastal cycleway route (which is a huge step forward), there are still many places, such as the Lennox Headland that are known by names that don’t reflect the long and proud history of our Indigenous community,’ he said.

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

‘For example, why is the Lennox Headland known as Pat Morton Lookout instead of an Indigenous word/name that reflects the significance of this location and the local history?’ asks Cr Johnson.

‘My research has revealed that Pat Morton’s only “real” connection to the Northern Rivers was that he was born in Lismore before moving to Sydney and being elected to Mossman Council.

‘Pat then joined the NSW Liberal party and served as leader between 1955-1959. I can’t find any connection to Lennox Head,’ said Cr Johnson.

By way of contrast, he pointed out that Lennox Head has a long indigenous history highlighted by a well-preserved bora ring and the Lake Ainsworth area ‘where expectant mothers would go to give birth in the healing tea tree waters.’

Cr Johnson said one of his missions for 2021 is to further the debate about the naming of culturally significant sites and have them recognised by indigenous words and stories.

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  1. Hi Louise,
    Thanks for the additional information. At least Pat Morton has some connection to the area, my research all pointed to another politician having a place named after them, which i still feel is the case. While a $2500 donation towards the lookout is a contribution and a connection that i’m sure Mr Morton felt good about, i don’t think that’s the most appropriate way to name signifiant local land marks.

    PS – love the work of the Heritage Committee

    • Yes our history is important and so easily lost.
      I think it is important not to disrespect one in order to respect another.
      Thank you

  2. Jeff
    Pat Morton was a man of his time and we might not today like all he did, but that people at the time thought it worthwhile to name the lookout after him is itself an important and telling record of their history. Older generations made thier history and we must make ours. – I have suggested naming one of the coastal paths is a good way to do that.


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