Permanent Committee on Place Names

We all use place names everyday to describe our surroundings, where we’re going or where we’ve been.

Rivers, mountains, plains, towns, suburbs, reefs, shoals and undersea features all have names.  Whether they are of national or international importance or known only to a handful of people, names connect places to their local communities and often reflect our heritage and culture.

New Zealand and each Australian state and territory – including our Antarctic areas of interest – have a place name registrar, naming board or committee for approving or registering names.  However it is the Permanent Committee on Place Names (PCPN) that coordinates place-naming activities across Australia and New Zealand.

What’s New

In August 2013 the 2012 National Gazetteer of Australia was released.

In 2009 PCPN, on behalf of UNGEGN, completed the production of a fully revised regional map and gazetteer of Asia South East, Pacific South West.

Teachers Lesson Pack

PCPN has developed an innovative internet based teaching pack for the sharing of information about geographic place names and to promote the significance of geographic place names in the community.

Place Names Teaching Package

This includes the "What’s in a Name?" Video which highlights the significance of place names and the part they play in everyday life.  Starring Ernie Dingo, it tells the story of how places get their names and explains PCPN’s role in looking after them.

On a related topic, more information may be accessed through the CRCSI Spatial Information Education Portal .

Our History and Membership

PCPN has produced an informative brochure on place naming in Australia and New Zealand.  Significantly, it outlines the achievements of PCPN in ensuring the integrity of place names.

PCPN understands that naming places is something people are passionate about.

Our role is to coordinate and communicate the consistent use of place names to ensure they meet the requirements of the whole community, including government bodies and emergency services; and also indigenous people.

The Committee for Geographical Names of Australasia (CGNA) was formed in 1984 to coordinate place naming activities across Australia and New Zealand.  In 1993, we became a standing committee within the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) with the support of Geoscience Australia. In October 2015 the name of the committee was updated to the Permanent Committee on Place Names (PCPN).

Our members come from Australian state and territory naming boards and committees, New Zealand and other organisations with a role and interest in place naming, including the:

link to CGNA Brochure
  • Australian National Placenames Survey
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
  • Australian Antarctic Division
  • Australian Hydrographic Office
  • Department of Defence

Through PCPN, Australia and New Zealand participate in the activities of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) and contribute to world best practice in the management of place names.