Call to name land earmarked for Bruce Lee statue after local heroine, WWI nurse Edith Blake

A small reserve in South Street, Kogarah scheduled to be renamed after the Chinese city of Shunde could instead be renamed after Australian heroine, WWI nurse Edith Blake.

Edith Blake lived at Blakehurst and was the only Australian nurse to die in World War I as a direct result of enemy action.

She died aged 32 when the hospital ship she was serving on, the HMHS Glenart Castle was torpedoed off the English coast by a German submarine on February 26, 1918.

Her name has been proposed by the Kogarah Historical Society as being suitable for the South Street Reserve.

If her name is approved by Georges River Council it would kill off forever a proposal by the former Kogarah Council to name the reserve after the Chinese city of Shunde.

This was proposed in recognition of the gift that Shunde presented to Kogarah Council as its Sister City of the Bruce Lee statue that now stands in Kogarah Town Square.

The life-size statue of martial arts legend and Hollywood actor Lee caused a furore when it was installed at Kogarah Town Square in 2011.

Shunde was the ancestral home of Bruce Lee but, as critics pointed out at the time, he had no connection with Kogarah.

In 2016 Kogarah Council voted to move the Bruce Lee statue to South Street Reserve and rename the space Shunde Gardens.

But the proposal seems to be have lapsed following the amalgamation of Kogarah and Hurstville Councils.

And Bruce Lee seems to be staying where he is for the moment with Georges River Council workers last week repairing the base of the statue.

With Georges River Council drafting a new Sister City Policy, Shunde may not longer be recognised as a Sister City of the new council.

And there seems to be confusion over the actual name of the reserve.

A report by Georges River Council’s Community and Culture committee describes it as “the currently unnamed road reserve informally known as Shunde Gardens on South Street, Kogarah”.

But historian Dr Peter Orlovich said the reserve is unofficially called South Street Reserve.

South Street is named after Kogarah’s first Post Master John South who was also an alderman on Kogarah Council.

Dr Orlovich who has been a counsellor or advisor on the Geographical Names Board since 1966 said the feeling of the Kogarah Historical Society is that the name of the reserve should be related to somebody of local historical significance.

The Geographical Names Board is empowered by the Geographical Names Act 1966 as the official body assign names to places.

“The proposal that it be named Shunde Gardens seems to have lapsed,” Dr Orlovich said.

“Kogarah Historical Society president Beverley Earnshaw has written extensively about nurse Edith Blake.

“The society believes the reserve should be named in honour of Edith Blake who is a person of local historical significance.”

In a letter to the council, Kogarah Historical Society secretary Gill Whan said the renaming of the reserve, which is across the road from St George Private Hospital, would honour Edith Blake for her contribution to the medical profession.

It is also considered appropriate as 2018 is the centenary of the end of World War 1.

A report by council staff recommends the new name be supported.

If Georges River Council decides to rename the reserve after nurse Edith Blake, the proposal would have to be placed on public exhibition.

If it receives community support, it the new name would then have to go to the NSW Geographical Names Board to be formalised.