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27 Australian place names you’ve been pronouncing wrong

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From Woolloomooloo to Wangkatjungka, Australia is filled with place names that are not just tricky to spell, but can get your tongue in a twist. And nothing screams “I’m a tourist” more than mangling the name of the town you’ve just arrived in. Depending on where you’re from, the correct way of saying these places will either be blindingly obvious, or utterly baffling.

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Forster, NSW

This beach town is such a great holiday spot, even the R decided to take a break – it’s FOSS-ter.

Manuka, ACT

Not to be confused with the honey (Ma-NOO-ka), this Canberra suburb is MAR-na-ka. 

Cockburn, WA / SA

Both Western Australia and South Australia have one of these, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about when you pronounce it as the locals do: Co-burn.  

Lachlan, TAS

Tasmanians are certainly unique, and this little spot outside Hobart proves it: it’s not Lock-lan, it’s Lack-lan.

Canowindra, NSW 

There may be plenty of hot air in this town (it’s known as the ballooning capital of Australia) but there’s definitely no wind in its name. It’s Can-OUN-dra (not to be confused with the Sunshine Coast’s Caloundra).

Ravenshoe, QLD

You can pronounce Raven, and you can pronounce Shoe. But put them together and what do you get? Something completely different: Ravens-ho.

Lake Cathie, NSW

You’d reckon it would be pronounced Lake Cathy, as in Cathy Freeman. But you’d be wrong – it’s Cat-eye.

Scenic coastal views showing the white sand of Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay.

Scenic coastal views showing the white sand of Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay.

Derby, WA / TAS

In most of Australia, when you’re talking about sport, derby is pronounced darby. Not so in WA where it’s pronounced phonetically – DER-be – and the same goes for the popular Kimberley tourist town of Derby. And – although Tasmanian locals use darby in the sporting sense, their Derby (a popular mountain-biking destination) is also DER-be. 

Hervey Bay, QLD

If Derby is DER-by, then surely Hervey is HER-vey? Nope, it’s pronounced Harvey. 

Jervis Bay, NSW/ACT

One of the most beautiful and confusing places in Australia. Not only does the area oddly contain a 7456ha patch of ACT-administered coast, Jervis Bay Territory (despite being 250km from Canberra), the pronunciation of its name has been hotly debated for decades. Sydneysiders and Navy personnel are convinced it’s JAR-vis, but locals swear it’s JER-vis. The local council and NSW Geographical Names Board have previously taken opposing sides of the debate, while an expert consulted by the ABC  claims “there are two correct answers”. (Incidentally, Cape Jervis in South Australia, said to be named after the same British admiral as Jervis Bay, is pronounced JER-vis.)

Woolloomooloo, NSW

As Sydneysiders will know, this suburb is pronounced Woola-maloo. But few will be able to spell it right first time.

Wangkatjungka, WA

Not too far from some of the Kimblerley’s stunning gorges and waterholes is this Aboriginal community, pronounced Won-ka-jon-ka.

Reservoir, VIC

Just shorten it to Rezzy, and you’ll be safe. This suburb in northern Melbourne is not Resa-vwah, but Resa-vore.

Ram Ranges Head, Kosciuszko National Park.

Ram Ranges Head, Kosciuszko National Park.

K’gari, QLD

Sure, you could cheat and call it Fraser Island – but once you see this stunning spot you’ll probably find its Indigenous name K’gari, aka “paradise”, more fitting. It’s pronounced Gurri – the K is silent.

Kata Tjuta, NT

Again, you could call it The Olgas, but using its original name shows respect to the traditional owners. It’s pronounced Catta-jew-tah.

Ebbw Vale, QLD

That’s not a typo, it’s a South-East Queensland suburb named after a Welsh town. It’s pronounced Eb-boo Vale.

Albany, WA

Knowing how to say Albury won’t help you here, East Coasters. It’s not All-bany, it’s Al-bany (as in Al-phabet).

Bonython, ACT / Port Bonython, SA

No bones about this one, it’s Bon-EYE-thon. 

Goondiwindi, QLD

It’s just over the border from NSW so maybe that explains why it’s pronounced Gunda-windy despite being spelt so differently to similar-sounding Gundagai.

Mount Kosciuszko, NSW

Aussies are pretty consistent with Kozzy-oss-ko. However, technically, the Polish pronunciation of Kosciuszko would be “Kosh-chush-ko”. Then again, there are dozens of places and landmarks all over the world bearing the name Kosciuszko, after Polish military leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko – from Kosciuszko Bridge in New York to the town of Kosciusko, Mississippi, the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey – each of which locals have given their own pronunciation twists, including “Kah-zee-ESS-ko” and “Kos-kee-OOS-ko”.

Ballan, VIC

Apparently, 90 per cent of outsiders get this one wrong. It’s not BALL-an, not BELL-an, but Ba-LAN.

Wallan, VIC

If Ballan is Ba-Lan, Wallan must be Wa-LAN, right? Nope, it’s WOLL-en.

Recherche Bay, TAS

Do your research on this one … and pronounce it Research. 

Backcountry, Kosciuszko National Park

Backcountry, Kosciuszko National Park

Gumeracha, SA

The home of the Big Rocking Horse, this Adelaide Hills town is pronounced Gum-er-ack-a. 

Wauchope, NSW

Although the original Wauchope family, after whom this town was named, apparently pronounced their name “Walk-op”, locals prefer War-hope. And definitely not War-choppy.

Tiaro, QLD

This town is located on the Mary River in the Fraser Coast Hinterland – but where its “A” has disappeared to is anyone’s guess. It’s not Tee-are-row, but Tie-row.

Coogee, WA / NSW

Whichever pronunciation you go with, you’re going to get it wrong somewhere. The Perth suburb is KOO-jee; the Sydney suburb is COULD-jee.

Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill, SA

One glance at Australia’s longest place name might have you running for the hills, but here’s proof it isn’t impossible to pronounce – even on live TV: 

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