Australia could learn a lot from New Zealand when it comes to recognising pre-colonial cultures and language, according to a senior academic in Indigenous cultural studies.

Commenting on NZ’s latest debate around renaming the country ‘Aotearoa’ in recognition of its original inhabitants, ECU’s Dr Mary-Anne Macdonald said Australia was still lagging behind its closest neighbour.

She said in a post-imperial world, a dual national name was a pathway to formally recognise that there are multiple societies which have shaped the contemporary national identity.

“The dual naming of Aotearoa New Zealand is also commonly used within some non-government sectors, so a move to a formal name change is not such an ‘extreme’ stretch,” Dr Macdonald said.

“Although obviously a matter for debate and decision by Aotearoa/New Zealand citizens, there is significant precedent already for the dual name suggestion.”

However, the country’s former deputy Prime Minister of New-Zealand Peter Winston labelled the initiative “dumb extremism”.

“We are not changing to some name with no historical credibility,” Mr Winston said on Twitter.

Dr Macdonald said there are many practical ways to reimagine and redefine national identity.

“It is a question for each nation, and in particular, the Indigenous peoples of each nation, to determine the most appropriate pathway toward a respectful and inclusive national identity,” she said.

“Close collaboration with Indigenous leaders would be an essential aspect of that process.

“I believe the formal recognition of Aboriginal languages by government in policy documents, websites, infrastructure signs on roads, schools and hospitals would be a huge leap forward for our nation.”

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