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Greens Councillor slams Paddington pub for controversial name change

A City of Sydney councillor slammed an inner-city pub’s recent decision to change its name back to the Captain Cook Hotel.

Greens Councillor and native title lawyer Sylvie Ellsmore said the pub’s decision to re-associate itself with the British explorer was “ridiculous” and “shows a radical lack of imagination”.

“It’s ridiculous for us to be reverting to old colonial names that are duplicated across the city,” Councillor Ellsmore said. “I think the whole community is going to be disappointed with the decision and future generations will be even more confused and disappointed by the lack of imagination.”

The Captain Cook Hotel, which sits opposite the Sydney Cricket Ground, rebranded to The Captain Paddington in 2020.

But under new ownership, the pub returned to its original name in March.

Cr Ellsmore said it was likely the community would not support the pub’s decision to re-associate itself with Captain Cook.

“We know this is one of the areas that voted highest for yes [in the voice referendum],” she said. “There is the history of the civil rights movement with Redfern and it is a community that is particularly strongly supportive of Indigenous rights.

“It is a community that is most likely to be unimpressed with that kind of decision.”

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore is confident the City of Sydney community will continue to fight for Indigenous recognition.
Photo: Samara Smith

The Greens councillor said the way forward was to stop commemorating “contentious colonial figures” and start recognising the influential Indigenous people and migrants who have been excluded from Australian history.

“Not reverting back to naming more things after contentious colonial figures is helpful,” she said. “We do not need another Captain Cook Hotel and we do not need another Macquarie Street or Macquarie Road.

“What the community is crying out for is for us to be talking about all the people that are normally excluded from our history.”

Wiradjuri man and TAFE student Matthew Robinson said the pub’s decision to re-associate itself with Captain Cook was politically motivated.

“There was no need to change the name back,” Mr Robinson said.  “Especially in this day and age where people are a bit more understanding and aware of the history. I feel like they’re pushing their own agenda or being stubborn with it.”

The decision offended the Wiradjuri man who said it was a “step in the wrong direction”.

“They recognised the need to change the name [in 2020] which was a good step forward and then all of a sudden they just decided to backtrack on it,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a middle finger up really.”

Mr Robinson recalls visiting the pub when it was originally called the Captain Cook Hotel. It was only after the recent name change that he decided he wouldn’t go back.

“I used to go there after the footy and after they changed the name [to the Captain Paddington] I gained a bit more respect for it,” he said. “I thought, at least they’re trying to change their image and be portrayed a bit better.

“Since they’ve changed the name back, I just won’t go, purely out of frustration. It’s a pretty poor reflection of their morals.”

But Captain Cook Hotel manager Robert Punton said the decision to change the name was not political. It was more about preserving the history of the hotel.

“The owner and I just made the decision as that’s what the hotel has always been called,” Mr Punton said. “There was no political message or anything behind it. It was solely that we felt there’s a history behind the hotel obviously.”

The pub manager said most people had supported the decision.

“It has always been a positive reaction pretty much by everyone that has spoken to us about it,” he said. “They haven’t had any negative things to say about it and they’ve always pretty much said it was about time.”

Pub manager Robert Punton wants people to know the name change had no political message behind it. Photo: Samara Smith

The pub manager said political movements at the time, such as The Black Lives Matter, prompted the previous name change to The Captain Paddington.

“The previous owners said it was just to give it a revamp,” he said. “Many of the locals put it down to being part of that whole movement going on at the time.”

Mr Punton blamed the backlash surrounding the recent name change on political correctness.

“In the past, you could have an opinion and not worry too much about it,” he said. “These days, you can’t do that without copping some sort of backlash. It’s just gotten way out of hand.”

Events manager Stuart Rich said the renaming of the pub would not stop him from visiting.

“The name definitely does not affect my decision,” the 43-year-old said. “I’m more concerned about the actual venue and what it can offer.”

But Mr Rich said the decision to change the name was political.

“They’ve changed the name for a reason,” he said.“I’d say it is politically motivated and probably aligns with the values of the old Aussie blokes who run the place.”

Having hosted many events in the Paddington and Surry Hills areas, Mr Rich said the local community would criticise the pub’s decision.

“There is enough of a movement in the Surry Hills area to be causing a bit of backlash on the name change,” he said. “There would be a lot of groundswell, especially in this area and precinct.

“Although it doesn’t really bother me, I still don’t think it was the wisest decision.”

Greens Councillor and native title lawyer Sylvie Ellsmore said the pub’s decision to re-associate itself with the British explorer was “ridiculous” and “shows a radical lack of imagination”.


Samara Smith
Samara Smith
Samara Smith is a second-year Media and Communications student at the University of Sydney. She has a passion for writing and a keen interest in journalism and digital communications. Samara also works as a marketing executive within the sports industry.

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