Australia Post's new parcels prompting customers to include traditional place names is a fantastic initiative to deepen our connection to country, but needs to be combined with a database.

Making space for traditional place names

Australia Post has marked NAIDOC Week by releasing new-look parcels that will prompt customers to include Aboriginal traditional place names in addresses.

It’s a fantastic initiative to deepen our connection to our land and to our First Australians. Having the call-out as an address field not only increases awareness of traditional names but makes it a social norm to use them. (And, as we’ve discussed, making something a social norm is a super effective way to change behaviour.)

But it’s missing a key ingredient.

It’s a shame the new envelopes haven’t been combined with a database of traditional place names for customers to search. It’s a key missing element needed for the address initiative to get widespread take-up.

Australia Post recommends using this beautiful map created by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to find traditional place names. We reckon it’s a great buy for every home, but the map doesn’t necessarily give the answers customers might be expecting.

For example, Australia Post representatives in the media coverage talk of looking forward to receiving a parcel on Wurundjeri land, but you won’t find “Wurundjeri” on the map. That’s because Wurundjeri is a clan name but the map lists by language groups (so instead it says “Woiwurrung”, the language group to which the Wurundjeri belong).

Poor design causes unintended consequences.

We’re not trying to be churlish by pointing this out. It’s genuinely important.

Because that gap in the information chain creates confusion and complication that could encourage a habit of skipping the “Traditional Place” field. Worse still, it could even turn people against the initiative because it makes them defensive, feeling it suggests they’re a bad person for not knowing what traditional name to write.

Creating solutions

So huge praise to Rachel McPhail, who led the campaign to add traditional places to envelopes but is also still leading a campaign for Australia Post to create a traditional place names database.

And in the meantime, one way we can all help out is by adding the traditional place name next to its English name in our addresses on email signatures and website footers. Together, we can help each other learn more about our home.

Written in North Melbourne / Wurunderi Country

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