History and Legacy

The Committee for Geographical Names of Australia (CGNA) was formed in 1984 to coordinate place naming activities across Australia. Noting the important relationship between place names and geospatial information the CGNA maintained an affiliation with Australia’s National Mapping Council (NMC), which carried over when the NMC was replaced by Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM).

CGNA and NMC/ICSM initially agreed that the committees should remain separate, but the need for a national gazetteer of place names as a spatial dataset soon became evident. The importance of the affiliation and need for governmental support for CGNA interests grew, and in 1993 CGNA became a standing committee of ICSM to provide greater alignment between place naming and geospatial information management.

In 1998 CGNA expanded to include membership from the names authority of New Zealand. The committee name was changed slightly to become the Committee for Geographical Names of Australasia (i.e. Australia became Australasia).

In 2016 CGNA decided to change it’s name to address some misunderstandings around scope and improve alignment with other ICSM interests. Adopting the same naming format used for the standing committees ICSM had created, CGNA became the Permanent Committee on Place Names (PCPN).

In 2020 ICSM decided that it would no longer have standing committees and all of its subgroups, which included PCPN, would be known as working groups. As a result PCPN changed it’s name again, and became the Australia and New Zealand Working Group on Place Names (WGPN).

While our name may have changed, the essence of the group has not. So whether you know us as CGNA, PCPN, or WGPN, that original intent to coordinate place name activities is a legacy from our founding members that continues to drive our work today.