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HomeLatest NewsFairlight lookout name proposal causes controversy

Fairlight lookout name proposal causes controversy

Northern Beaches Council’s proposal to name a lookout after a former mayor and community advocate Jean Hay AM is causing a controversy, with opponents claiming the preferred zone – a headland in Fairlight – should honour the former Indigenous inhabitants instead.

The site of the lookout is an outcrop of land jutting into North Harbour, to the west of Fairlight Beach. Triangular in shape, it is approximately 20 metres from the southern tip to the Fairlight Walk footpath to the north, which runs approximately 50 metres along its longest edge.

Below the point are a bed of rocks accessible at low tide and above it the rear of dwellings along Fairlight Crescent.

Council has proposed to name a lookout area in the park adjacent to the Manly Scenic Walkway, Fairlight, as the ‘Jean Hay Lookout’.

“This naming recognises Mrs Jean Hay, AM’s service and commitment to the community and local government, including as Mayor of Manly Council from 1999 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2016,” the proposal states.

“Should the proposal go ahead, we will upgrade the existing picnic setting and install an interpretative sign to further acknowledge Mrs Jean Hay, AM’s contributions to our community.”

Fairlight Beach, facing east from the headland lookout. Photo: Alec Smart

At present the only furniture consists of a picnic table with seating on one side and a bench with a plaque commemorating Harold and Doris Bowman the other.

The proposal continues, “Following a review of Mrs Jean Hay, AM’s career, it is considered that naming a lookout area in Fairlight would be a suitable way to honour the breadth of her career and contributions to the Northern Beaches community over many years.

“The proposal is consistent with Council’s Naming Our Reserves, Facilities and Roads Policy and does not require the approval of the Geographical Names Board of NSW.”

The opposition’s position

Opponents of the proposal assert that not enough has been done to acknowledge the former Indigenous inhabitants of the region, the Kayemegal and Borogegal.

These Aboriginal clans gathered shellfish along the foreshores and fished the waters of North Harbour in bark canoes for centuries prior to British colonisation.

Aboriginals cooking fish in canoe, North Head in the distance. Painting: Augustus Earle 1825

The chosen site for the lookout is part of a stretch of foreshore that follows the Manly to Spit Bridge Walking Trail (AKA Manly Scenic Walkway) where there are numerous Aboriginal engravings, shell middens and rock shelters.

In 2023, international travel advice website TripAdviser recognised the 10km coastal trail as “one of the leading attractions in the world.”

Many opponents of Council’s naming proposal contacted Manly Observer to express their dismay over the last few weeks.

Fairlight resident, Christine Kininmonth, summed up their opposition: “Jean Hay AM was Mayor of Manly Council for 13 years and did some excellent work for the community during her time as a paid local politician and afterwards.

“However, the naming of this pristine and unnamed natural lookout sets a terrible precedent for all the natural lookouts along this walk and on this beautiful and iconic reserve. Right now, viewing areas in this delightful natural and contemplative area are unnamed, save for Kay-Ye-My Point, which rightly acknowledges the Gayamaygal [also spelt Kayemegal] as the traditional owners.”

Christine continued, “Alarmingly, an ‘interpretative sign to further acknowledge Mrs Jean Hay AM’ could well have equal billing/prominence with the sign appropriately acknowledging the Aboriginal peoples of this area. If the lookout is to be named at all, Northern Beaches Council should refer to its own Clause 7 its naming policy statement:

“7. When naming parks and natural areas, preference will be given to the use of historical names, Aboriginal words (e.g. Goombooya Reserve) and the names of indigenous species of plants, birds and animals (e.g. Angophora Reserve, Cabbage Tree Bay).” 

The Fairlight lookout (right) viewed from neighbouring Kay-Ye-My Point. Photo: Alec Smart

Another Fairlight resident who is strongly opposed to the Jean Hay naming proposal, Philippa Langley, told Manly Observer, “I believe that natural geographical sites should be given Aboriginal names in recognition of our lost indigenous heritage. I believe this to be consistent with the NB Council’s policy on naming reserves, facilities and landmarks.”

Philippa continued, “I strongly believe that an appropriate Indigenous name should be chosen for this significant coastal headland, in consultation with the Aboriginal Heritage Office (Freshwater, Northern Beaches) so that future Australian generations may retain links to our important Aboriginal history, culture and heritage.

“I believe this would be an important step towards reconciliation with our First Nations communities. It would also be consistent with the NB Council’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which states: We commit to building relationships with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community that are built on mutual respect, trust and inclusiveness.”

Who is Jean Hay?

Jean Hay, AM, a Member of the Order of Australia, which recognises Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement, was first elected to Manly Council in 1987. She served three terms as Mayor 1999-2004, 2008-2012 and 2012-2016 and was the last Mayor before Manly Council was amalgamated with Warringah and Pittwater into Northern Beaches Council.

During her many years of public service, Mrs Hay has been described as a community-minded and considerate councillor who led by example.

According to Council, some of her many achievements include:

Awards: Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the Manly community through local government, community action and sporting groups, and as a fundraiser for welfare and health education programs. The Centenary Medal for outstanding services as Mayor and Councillor of Manly. And the NSW Ministers’ Award for Women in Local Government (Metropolitan Elected Representative) 2010.

Sydney Heads and North Harbour viewed from the Fairlight Lookout. Photo: Alec Smart

As both Mayor and a long-serving councillor, she played an important role in:

The establishment of Bear Cottage in Manly (the only children’s hospice in NSW, one of only three in Australia); development of the Manly Scenic Walkway; the beautification of the Manly oceanfront walkways; the establishment of the Manly Pathway of Olympians and Paralympians; the upgrade of the Manly Andrew Boy Charlton Aquatic Centre; the redevelopment of Seaforth TAFE with new community facilities; the provision of bus shelters in Manly at no cost to rate payers; helping to raise funds and establish the Mobile Life Education classrooms for the Northern Beaches (now known as Healthy Harold); helping to raise $2m for the Sunnyfield Association for a business and training centre; the reestablishment of the Manly District Support Committee to help less fortunate people.

In addition, she served on the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Board as a committee member (2012 – 2016), including Acting Chair (2015) and Deputy Chair (2016 – 2021).

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins paid tribute to Mrs Hay.

“A life-long resident of Manly, Jean Hay AM has made an enormous contribution to Manly and our community and so in recognition of her efforts this beautiful location has been chosen to commemorate her.

“She has been awarded several accolades over her lifetime including the Member of the Order of Australia and the Centenary Medal for services to the community through local government, community action and sporting groups, and fundraising for welfare and health education programmes.”

Manly Observer contacted the Aboriginal Heritage Office in Freshwater for their considered opinion; however, a spokesperson referred us back to the Council.

Manly Observer contacted Council to enquire about whether a less controversial, but equally important, location could be chosen to honour the life and great works of Jean Hay.

A Council spokesperson responded: “Public consultation is a fair and transparent outlet for the community to comment on a particular project. The proposed naming is for the lookout and not the entire reserve. This lookout honours Jean Hay AM, the former Mayor of Manly and is now open for feedback on Council’s Your Say page until Sunday 7 April 2024.

“The outcome of the public exhibition will be reported back to Council later this year to determine the next steps.”

Council’s naming proposal is open for comments until this Sunday, 7 April, at this webpage: https://yoursay.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/jean-hay-lookout-fairlight



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