Commonly Mispronounced Places in Australia

Kata Tjuta is a major tourist attraction in the Northern Territory – but how to pronounce the name?
Kata Tjuta is a major tourist attraction in the Northern Territory – but how to pronounce the name? | © Gareth Day / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer7 June 2021

Australians are known for their unconventional slang terms and relaxed way of speaking. They like to shorten a lot of everyday words, including the names of cities and towns. If you want to learn the local lingo, or you’re simply trying to understand an Australian, find out the right way to say these most commonly mispronounced place names in Australia.

Melbourne (Mel-bin)

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Traditional Trams in Melbourne city centre, Victoria, Australia.
© Andrew Michael / Alamy Stock Photo

Every year, more than two million overseas tourists visit Melbourne. But most international visitors insist on pronouncing the world’s most liveable city as it’s spelled: Mel-bourne, as in the Matt Damon movie trilogy. Locals cringe at this mispronunciation. To instantly feel like a Melbourne resident, rather than a visitor, pronounce the name as the locals do: Mel-bin.

Mudgeeraba (Mug-ra-bar)

Architectural Landmark
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1 114756 Woman standing on the platform at the Mudgeeraba Station, Queensland, ca. 1938
© Historic Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Mudgeeraba, which is not pronounced Mud-jee-rar-bar, is a small suburb in the Gold Coast hinterland that is largely untouched by tourism. It’s known for its 19th-century-style village and heritage-listed buildings, which include the Wallaby Hotel, one of Australia’s oldest pubs. The name Mudgeeraba is derived from an indigenous Australian expression, and it’s pronounced Mug-ra-bar.

Brisbane (Bris-bin)

Architectural Landmark
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BRISBANE, AUS - JUN 7 2016: Panoramic view of Brisbane Skyline with Story Bridge and the river. It is Australias third largest c
© Martin Valigursky / Alamy Stock Photo

Similar to Melbourne’s shortening and relaxed pronunciation is Brisbane. It’s Bris-bin, not Bris-bane. The capital of Queensland is nicknamed Brissy and Brisvegas (although the two cities have few similarities). It was named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, a noted astronomer and the governor of New South Wales from 1821 to 1825.

Lalor (Law-ler)

Architectural Landmark
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Lalor is a suburb of Melbourne, located 18km (11 miles) from the city centre. It was named after Peter Lalor, who was a leader of the Eureka Stockade rebellion and then a member of the Victorian parliament. Today, the suburb is one of Melbourne’s most multicultural. Some 64 percent of Lalor residents do not speak English as their first language: Macedonian is the most dominant tongue.

Canberra (Can-bra)

Architectural Landmark
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Canberra, Australia - Jan. 25, 2017: Architecture, National Museum of Australia Building, Canberra, Australia.
© jejim120 / Alamy Stock Photo
Canberra is Australia’s capital city, though a lot of people are not aware of that. It’s home to the Royal Australian Mint, the Australian Institute of Sport, Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. It was chosen as the capital as a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney. Instead of referring to the city as Canberra, Australians shorten it to sound like Can-bra.

Mackay (Mack-eye)

Architectural Landmark
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The J.M. Ramsamy Memorial Building and colorful Art Deco shops in the city Mackay, Queensland, Australia
© Arterra Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Mackay is located on the tropical Queensland coast, and disputes rage over how to pronounce the name. Mackay is the closest city to both Airlie Beach and the wonderful Whitsundays, and was named after John Mackay. His descendants apparently corresponded with Mackay City Library in 2007 to confirm that it is in fact pronounced Mack-eye, not Mac-kay.

Kata Tjuta (Kah-tah Choor-ta)

Natural Feature
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View from the top of a mount at Kata Tjuta. Image shot 07/2013. Exact date unknown.
© Rozenn Hamoniau / Alamy Stock Photo

Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, are a group of domed red-rock formations in a remote part of Australia. Located 365km (227 miles) from Alice Springs, Kata Tjuta is a tourist attraction in the Northern Territory close to Uluru. Kata Tjuta is an Aboriginal Australian word, meaning “many heads”.

Cairns (Cans)

Architectural Landmark
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CAIRNS, AUS - JUN 22 2014: Cairns Cenotaph and Memorial site. It is a place of cultural and historic significance for the Cairns
© Martin Valigursky / Alamy Stock Photo
Cairns was named after William Wellington Cairns, who was governor of Queensland from 1875 to 1877. The unusual pronunciation of Cairns as “cans” has confused visitors for decades. Cairns is the fourth most popular destination for international tourists in Australia, behind Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. People flock here as it’s dubbed the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s seven natural wonders.

Launceston (Lon-ses-tin)

Architectural Landmark
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Tourist ride on Gorge Scenic Chairlift in Launceston Tasmania Australia.
© Rafael Ben Ari / Alamy Stock Photo
Launceston is a Tasmanian city, the name of which is often mispronounced by both Australian residents and international visitors. Although many people want to say Lawn-ceston, it is in fact pronounced Lon-ses-tin. Like many places in Australia, it was named after a town in the UK. In this case, Captain Philip Gidley King, the governor of New South Wales for six years from 1800, was born in Launceston in Cornwall. One of Australia’s oldest cities, Launceston is home to many historical buildings.

Fleurieu (Floo-ree-oh) Peninsula

Natural Feature
Map View
Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu Peninsula, Port Willunga, sunset
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in South Australia, the Fleurieu Peninsula was named by French explorer Nicolas Baudin in 1802. He named it in honour of Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, a fellow French explorer and hydrographer. It’s not uncommon for both Australians and international visitors to mispronounce the French name. People visit the Fleurieu Peninsula for its beautiful surf beaches and its ferry to Kangaroo Island.

Jervis (Jar-vis) Bay

Camping
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The famous white sands of Hyams Beach in picturesque Jervis Bay with its turquoise waters, New South Wales, NSW, Australia
© Genevieve Vallee / Alamy Stock Photo
Jervis Bay is located on the south coast of New South Wales. It’s a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors, with picturesque white-sand beaches. Lieutenant Richard Bowen named Jervis Bay in 1791 after Admiral John Jervis, whom he had served under.
These recommendations were updated on June 7, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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