‘High priority’ for Agnes park-naming review

Supporters gathering at the 'Agnes O'Brien' park include, front from left, Stefan Koomen and daughter Frankie, Frank and Jackie Horvath (Agnes's daughter) - Lisa and Steve O'brien (Agnes son) and Ryan Wilson, and back row from left, Mia Wilson, Didi Wilson, Justin Le, Unknown, John Turner and Clint Wilson. 406623_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

After a long delay, Casey Council has declared a “high priority” review into a community proposal to name a park in Autumn Place, Doveton after a humble, huge-hearted volunteer Agnes O’Brien.

As reported in Star Journal last month, residents and groups say the late Ms O’Brien reached out to many troubled kids and families in the Autumn Place playground.

The single mother-of-four and sports club volunteer was credited for putting countless kids on the right path, bringing them off the streets and into her home and into sport.

Some say she saved numerous lives.

They argue that the recognition would right a historical wrong – in that none of Doveton’s parks and reserves are named after Doveton residents.

And just as starkly, none are named after women.

The idea has been backed by Doveton Boxing Club, Doveton Eumemmerring Township Association, Bruce MP Julian Hill, a former Doveton police officer Andrew O’Brien (no relation) and Ms O’Brien’s children.

As of mid May, the initial submission from boxing club leader Ryan Wilson had received no response from Casey for more than 12 months.

Finally in a letter dated 20 May – days after the Star Journal’s report – the council’s geographical naming officer Fiona Baker confirmed that it was “proceeding” with a review.

“I apologise for the delay proceeding with this request and will make the review of this proposal a high priority.”

Meanwhile, former Dandenong MP and ex-City of Berwick mayor John Pandazopoulos has also written a statement of “strong support”.

“There could be nothing more fitting for Agnes’s huge contribution to Doveton then naming Autumn Place park after her,” he wrote.

He described Ms O’Brien as a “core part of Doveton community life”.

“Everywhere to be seen, always taking an interest in the challenges the community faced and always looking out for the kids of Doveton.

“She was much loved by them whilst also being tough on someone who would break their promise to her.”

Ms O’Brien was a strong advocate to improve the Autumn Place precinct, and centred her volunteer life at football and cricket clubs and Doveton Neighbourhood Place, Mr Pandazopoulos said.

“For those of us that grew up in Doveton it may have been part of suburbia but it was a village its culture formed through community activists such as Agnes.

“Working class and proud from all sorts of backgrounds building a community together often through adversity.

“Such pioneers of the suburb of Doveton should be recognised as a fitting recognition of humble people that lived their life through community support and development.”

The naming proposal is undergoing a review by Casey Council to ensure it complies with State Government guidelines as well as the rules of Geographic Names Victoria (GNV).

The council has also implemented a program to “increase gender equity” in the naming of new recreation reserves and community facilities.