Geographical feature names

A geographical feature is able to be named under the Public Place Names Act 1989.

Reason for policy

This policy has been prepared to maintain the integrity of the commemorative nature of place names in the ACT in relation to geographical feature naming, enable consistency in approach to geographical naming issues, and conform to both ACT general place names practices and national standards on geographical feature naming.

Policy references

This policy takes into account:

Preferred source of name

Where no previous official name exists for a geographical feature or locality, preference will be given to a name that:

  • if such a name exists, is the local Aboriginal name that was originally applied to identify the geographical feature, provided that the wishes of the relevant Aboriginal community are respected regarding the use of the name (see the sections Consultation and Use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Place Names below for specific guidelines);
  • is in keeping with the character and tradition of the locality;
  • has historical or local significance; or
  • is suggestive of the peculiarity of the geographical feature, eg shape, vegetation, etc.

Personal names

It is preferred that the name of any person proposed for commemoration should have contributed significantly to the area where the feature is located. When such a name is applied, it should be given posthumously.

Features that cross a State/Territory boundary

The name for any feature that crosses a State/Territory boundary should be the same on both sides of that boundary. The basis for the selection of a name for such a feature should be consensus between the ACT Place Names Committee and the Geographical Names Board of NSW, and primary responsibility for obtaining consensus should rest with the authority in the State or Territory in which the feature was first named.

Qualifying terms

Qualifying terms such as "upper", "new" or their opposites, in addition to cardinal indicators, may be used in Australian place naming, but wherever possible, more distinctive names should be used.


Duplication of geographical place names within the ACT is to be avoided, because of the confusion this can cause. Use of a name in the ACT which is already in use as a specific name in another State or Territory should be avoided wherever possible. Duplication of names in the past has led to the danger involved with emergency service providers being directed to a wrong location.

Possessive 's'

The possessive form should be avoided whenever possible without destroying the sound of the name or changing its descriptive application, eg Howes Valley should be written without the apostrophe.


The use of hyphens in connecting parts of names should, as far as possible, be avoided.

Offensive names

Offensive names, or names considered likely to cause offence, are to be avoided in all circumstances.


New names for geographical features are to be invited and sought from a variety of sources when naming issues arise. Any names proposed for geographical features are researched thoroughly and then referred to relevant authorities for consultation, including:

  • the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, the ACT Heritage Unit, and any other relevant reference centre;
  • ACT Parks and Conservation Service;
  • the relevant planning authority (National Capital Authority or the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate) for confirmation of the land use zone in which the feature is located.