Proposal to name Sydney station after Indigenous ANZAC with Cretan ties is rejected

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A Greek-led proposal to name a new Metro station at Pitt Street in Sydney after Captain Reginald Saunders – an Indigenous ANZAC with ties to the Greek island of Crete – has been rejected.

The Geographical Names Board (GNB) had accepted a proposal last year to call the Metro stop ‘Gadigal Railway Station,’ but former NSW Transport Minister David Elliott moved to overturn the proposed name in a bid to honour Captain Saunders instead with the name ‘Saunders Station.’

Captain Saunders is the first Indigenous Australian to serve as a commissioned officer in Korea and WWII.

The Indigenous soldier also has a strong connection to the Greek island of Crete during WWII, as he was supported by the Tzangarakis family from the village of Labini in Rethymno prefecture. He evaded capture on Crete for almost one year until he finally escaped to Egypt.

On May 2016, the 42nd Street Memorial plaque was unveiled in Chania, Crete, to commemorate the Battle of 42nd Street, which Captain Saunders fought in alongside the Maori Battalion.

Captain Reginald Saunders (left). Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Despite this significant service, the GNB sought community feedback on the ‘Saunders Station’ proposal last year and according to The Daily Telegraph, the name has since been rejected “due to feedback received from key stakeholders and members of the public.”

A City of Sydney spokeswoman said it acknowledged Captain Saunders as a “worthy candidate for commemorative naming,” but would prefer an Aboriginal leader from central Sydney.

This rejection has led business and Greek community leaders to call on the new NSW Labor Government to overrule the GNB and proceed with honouring the Indigenous ANZAC.

The Secretary of the Joint Committee for the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign, Nick Andriotakis, told The Greek Herald he was “really disappointed” and stressed Captain Saunders’ strong connection to Sydney.

“Captain Saunders worked at the foundry in Alexandria and lived at St Marys where he was President of the St Marys RSL at a time when members voted him to be President even though he didn’t have the right to vote electorally at the time,” Mr Andriotakis said.

“The name is an opportunity to acknowledge an amazing Indigenous Australian. I appeal to the new government to reconsider this decision with due process. We as a society need to learn and be uplifted by the legacy of Captain Saunders.”

Construction of the new Metro station at Pitt Street in the city. Picture: Richard Dobson.

Business Sydney Executive Director, Paul Nicolaou, also said his members “supported” naming the station after an Australian war hero.

“This is an opportunity to honour an individual Indigenous hero who, as a soldier, served Australia with distinction and bravery,” Mr Nicolaou said.

But the station’s name is now up in the air with Transport for NSW due to go back to the GNB to resume the naming process before it opens in 2024. It is up to the NSW Government to give the final endorsement.

NSW Transport Minister, Jo Haylen, told The Daily Telegraph she would investigate the proposal.

“The government will follow the proper processes and naming conventions in a respectful and consultative way,” she said.

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