6 October 2022

Removing slave trader's name from South Coast national park represents a 'rectifying of wrongs'

| Albert McKnight
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Ben Boyd National Park Photo: Flyinh Parrot

Ben Boyd National Park has been renamed Beowa National Park. Photo: Flyinh Parrot.

Requests by First Nations people have resulted in the renaming of the NSW South Coast’s Ben Boyd National Park.

The visually stunning region, south of Eden, will now be called Beowa National Park, which means ‘killer whale’ in the local Thaua language.

It is a move that has been welcomed by BJ Cruse, who has been the chairman of the Eden Aboriginal Land Council for 37 years.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here,” he said.

“The name change represents a rectifying of wrongs in the past.”

In 2020, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service engaged independent historian Dr Mark Dunn to provide a report on the history of Ben Boyd on the South Coast.

The report stated Boyd was involved in ‘blackbirding’, a form of slavery, and that in the early 19th century he took people from the islands of what are now Vanuatu and New Caledonia to work on his pastoral stations in NSW.

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Mr Cruse said Boyd was a “slave trader” who took more than 60,000 South Sea Islanders into slavery and was cruel to the First Nations people who lived on what he called his land.

“National parks are also for the preservation of Aboriginal culture and heritage and we don’t believe he deserved the honour of having a national park named after him,” he said.

“It was an insult to Aboriginal people.”

But he thought the name change indicated a change in the mood of the population and government that could hopefully lead to a treaty in the long term.

When it came to the name ‘Beowa’, Mr Cruse said killer whales had been part of local First Nations culture for thousands of years.

He said they were used to push larger whales up onto beaches to allow warriors to kill them with specially designed spears. The killer whales were given some meat, while the warriors also took some too.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said renaming the park was a significant moment for NSW and another step towards reconciliation.

READ ALSO First Nation names for spiritual landmarks officially recognised at last

“The Aboriginal community in this area called for us to rename Ben Boyd National Park because of Boyd’s shocking legacy of blackbirding,” he said.

“Through an extensive consultation process with more than 60 representatives from the Aboriginal and South Sea Islander community, we listened and learned, and a new, culturally-appropriate name for this magnificent national park was chosen.”

The NSW Government’s decision to rename the national park came in 2021, after requests from First Nations communities, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment said.

Park signage carrying the new name Beowa National Park is being installed and you can already see the new name on Google Maps.

Mr Cruse said he wanted to show respect to the government ministers who listened to the requests of the First Nations people for the name change.

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Isabel Robinson4:31 pm 06 Oct 22

Eden’s Steven Holmes, Keeper of the Thaua stories, canvassed that name change for nine years. It was his actions that led to Boyd’s name being dropped. I think he deserves the rightful acknowledgement.

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