Shakespeare’s Juliet said: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
The love-struck teen was referring to Romeo and the Montagues, of which her family had a long-standing feud.
This quote, one of the most famous in literature, is used today to reference the fact things are just as they are, and not the name that we give them. That the smell of a rose would still be pleasant, even if the flower was known by a different name.
At the same time, a person’s name is one of the most powerful words in any language.
Football legend Stan Alves, during his motivational speaking, would often tell a story of a talentless footballer who would turn up to a training session weekly.
Alves would recount the fact the man couldn’t mark or kick to save himself. But it didn’t stop him.
The reason he would turn up to every training? Because it was the only time he would hear his name because he lived alone.
There is deep respect attached to names. People are judged by their name. Research in the US has shown examples of female lawyers with masculine names more likely to to be appointed as a judge.
In Australia, we’ve had research to suggest there is an unconscious bias when it comes to names and resumes – “foreign-sounding names” are not as successful in job interviews. Despite Juliet’s good intentions, a name does matter. It connects the future and the past. This is why Tasmania should continue to consult with the Aboriginal community and adopt dual names. The more Aboriginal culture is at the forefront, the more we are likely to not only acknowledge the atrocities of the past but weave Indigenous culture into all aspects of life.
As Dr Sarah Jane Moore, a member of the dual naming reference group said: “The approach places us in the ongoing dialogues that Indigenous peoples are having and will continue to have so that language is prioritised in its rightful place as an important part of culture, awareness and the passing on of story”.
A name, like the footballer, gives an identity, hope and sense of belonging.