The Sydney Arts Students’ Society (SASS) has renamed their annual student literary journal ARNA to AVENUE following revelations of the name’s troubled origin.
ARNA has been the name of the journal since 1938 and was chosen from an “unspecified Aboriginal language”, incorrectly attributed as the name of “a sun-god who gave laws and culture to mankind”, and likely taken without permission, according to a 2018 SASS blog post.
SASS recently traced the name ‘Arna’ to the now-deceased language of the Barngarla people from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It was likely chosen from a story attributed to Karraru woman Kardin-nilla in the book Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines, assembled by Ngarrindjeri writer David Unaipon, but plagiarised and attributed to William Ramsay Smith.
In a public statement, SASS President Angelina Gu and Publications Directors Angela Xu and Frankie Rentsch apologised for the likely theft of the name.
“While we cannot claim that our tracing of this history is correct, our best efforts have been made to identify the origins of the name. We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Barngarla peoples, from whom the name was possibly stolen, and extend our respect to their community, language, and culture,” they said.
The society decided to change the name after recognising that the use of a stolen name is incongruous with a journal produced on stolen Gadigal land and representing all students.
“SASS recognises that we cannot continue to use a stolen name in a journal that prides itself on being a journal for all,” they said.
The new name AVENUE will take ARNA’s place to better reflect the values of the society and publication’s contributors.
“AVENUE is reminiscent of Eastern Ave, where student life teems and flourishes. It also refers to avenues of thought, pathways which our minds and creativity can wander down and explore. Finally, it is a road forward, towards a future journal which is inclusive down to every last word, a road where we can keep our past in the rear-view mirror, never forgetting, and always doing better,” they said.