THE suggestion St Arnaud should be renamed has incited a decidedly negative public reaction.
A call was made to consider renaming the town given its history.
The town was named after French general Jacques Leroy de Saint-Arnaud who was revered for his leadership in the Crimean War in the 19th century.
The general however also ordered the mass killing of more than 500 Indigenous people in Algeria, cementing caves shut where Indigenous people were hiding.
However public perception of the proposal has been mostly unsympathetic.
In a poll posted by the Ararat Advertiser and Stawell Times-News, 91.2 per cent of the 528 respondents said the name should not be changed.
Of the 8.8 per cent that said it should be changed, seven respondents said it should be changed to honour the region's indigenous heritage.
The Dja Dja Wurrung are the traditional owners of the land.
Northern Grampians Shire councillor and former mayor Kevin Erwin said he was surprised by the discussion.
"I thought it was a bit out of the blue," Cr Erwin said.
"People have fought hard throughout St Arnaud to retain and build a history on that name."
Cr Merrilee Reid has lived in St Arnaud for 31 years, and said she was disappointed that the discussion had the potential to divide the town.
"We're a great community over here and we really do care about one another," she said. "When something like this comes up ... it's not trying to divide the community, but unfortunately that's what it might do.
"It's just disappointing that at this time, with so much going on in the world, that this is also thrown into the mix for people to be divided in our community."
Cr Reid added that the rules for what is acceptable were rapidly changing.
"My first thought was that we sent men and women from St Arnaud to the war," she said.
"People are saying history is history and we have to learn from it. We do, and we are in a better place in 2020 than we were back then."
Cr Jason Hosemans said he would learn more about the history. Mayor Murray Emerson could not be reached for comment.
St Arnaud residents and business owners also voiced their opinions on the proposal.
Saint Arnaud newsagency's part-owner Narelle Cashin said she had not heard of anybody who agreed with the proposal.
St Arnaud Tyre Service's Scott Torney voiced his distaste with the suggestion.
"I think you'll find 99.9 per cent of St Arnaud people agree (it shouldn't be changed)," he said.
"We're an elderly community, our population is fairly elderly and they are very proud of the name St Arnaud.
"You don't look back and think about what someone has done. It just is how it is."
The suggestion also sparked strong discussion on social media.
Commenting on the Wimmera Mail-Times Facebook page, Naomie Brick said the history of the town's name should be discussed.
"Wow, have you read what he did? A pretty horrible person to memorialise," she said. "I knew nothing of this before.
"I think (Sue Hynes) is just bringing it up for discussion as most people would never have heard of the guy or what he did. So just relax, she even said she didn't think people in the town would agree to change, but she's actually teaching everyone some history."
Helen Hill suggested that instead of spending money to change the name, resources should be utilised to teach children that everybody is equal.
Tracy Cook said changing a name would not change the past.
"Why do that?" she said.
"It's a town you can't change a town because someone is offended. You also can't undo history because it might be offensive. What happened in the past should not be forgotten. We should learn and grow from it, not wipe it away."
Malcolm Robertson asked: "It's a name of a place and probably has been for more than 100 years. How many in the street would have known who it was named after?"
St Arnaud resident Terence Robertson said it was time to change the town's name.
"The last thing I want is to be in a town that's named after a mass murderer," he said. "That is horrific."
State Member for Ripon Louise Staley said she had received a series of emails from one resident on the issue. Ms Staley said she would not support changing the name
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