Push to rename national parks to reflect Indigenous heritage, not colonial history

Elka Wood 18 June 2020 63
View of cliffs, surf and Boyd's Tower in Ben Boyd National Park.

Boyd’s Tower, south of Eden in Ben Boyd National Park. Photo: Sapphire Coast Tourism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s remark on 11 June that Australia was “a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery”, in response to Black Lives Matter protests across the country – which he apologised for afterwards – has been followed by a push in some parts of the community to reconsider the names of popular NSW South Coast landmarks.

The suggestion from those arguing for name changes is that it’s time to stop rewarding the memory of early white settlers in Australia and explorers at places such as Ben Boyd National Park, Mount Kosciuszko and Mount Imlay.

Last year, it was suggested that Mount Kosciuszko be known by a dual Indigenous name, Kunama Namadgi, meaning snow and mountain in Ngarigo language. However, it has not been officially approved because the name is contentious with some Indigenous groups.

So what’s the thinking behind these calls?

Writer and naturalist John Blay, who has worked with Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council on documenting the Bundian Way, wrote in a social media post on Wednesday:

“Ben Boyd is celebrated in the name of national parks and towns in the region. There have been Aboriginal calls to rename the national parks and, for all we know, nothing’s been done. There has been terrible silence. Do we need to grant Ben Boyd our highest accolades and remembrance? He was the worst of exploiters and tried to enslave the Aboriginal people of Twofold Bay.”

Names have meaning, says Yuin man Graeme Moore, who, in his work with the Biamanga Board and his community, has advocated for a return to Aboriginal names for local landmarks.

“All our names have ripples of meaning and connectivity,” he said. “Take, for instance, Merimboola, or Merimbula as we now know it. It means place of the red belly black snake, but also has its roots in the bloodwood.”

Having a chunk of land named in honour of Ben Boyd, a Scottish grazier who lived until 1851 and was known for exploiting Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islanders for labour reinforces that period of colonial history, he thinks.

“Naming a place gives an understanding of what’s there,” said Mr Moore. “Changing the name is about appreciating there were people before Ben Boyd.”

Using Aboriginal place names in daily life helps young generations look at the past and to the future, he added.

“Names give us all an understanding of what’s there,” said Mr Moore. “It’s all there; the evidence is everywhere you look – all our special camps, our burials, you just have to know where to look or be respectfully shown.”

Merimbula resident Christine Garrison is supportive of the move to change the name of Ben Boyd National Park.

“We’ve all known the park by this name for so long and many of us have good memories associated with the name, but it’s time to change,” she said. “Ben Boyd is not someone we need to remember this way. If we all associate this beautiful place with an Indigenous name, it helps us all recall and respect the people who have lived there for thousands of years.”

John Blay spoke of Ben Boyd’s bitter end:

“The only poetic justice in all this is that on another exhibition to the Pacific Islands to round up more victims, he went ashore and was never seen again by the crew of his yacht. Is this a man we are proud of? Is this a man Scott Morrison would approve of, considering his comments last week? I would happily see his name wiped off our maps. His infamy should perhaps only be kept alive in our history books to ensure none of his deplorable activities are ever repeated.”

Mr Moore asked if names have meaning we absorb every time we speak or write them, what does Ben Boyd mean?

He said at the north end of Ben Boyd National Park, across from the Pambula River mouth at Toalla, for example, there are different Indigenous names for different parts of the park.

“The name is the beginning of your journey,” he said.

Original Article published by Elka Wood on About Regional.


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63 Responses to Push to rename national parks to reflect Indigenous heritage, not colonial history
Proboscus Proboscus 9:51 am 27 Jun 20

From Wollongong to Bega, there are numerous examples of townships and National Parks using indigenous names along the south coast.

What will be achieved if we start changing the names? The hand wringers will always whine and complain about something insignificant.

The past is the past. And yes, our history is littered with some horrible events. But let’s move forward together in a positive direction instead of always finding ways of being divisive.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:09 pm 26 Jun 20

The people who claimed the recent bushfires were unprecedented have tried to erase history.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 6:28 pm 26 Jun 20

How about dual naming? Reflects history – and you can use the name you want to.

Christine Jones Christine Jones 2:53 pm 26 Jun 20

You can't erase history.

Vindalu Vindalu 10:59 am 26 Jun 20

If particular indigenous persons had a particular positive association with a national park worthy of recognition; this could be reflected in the naming of the park. ALL honours should be awarded on merit not ethnicity.

Lynda-Maree Morgan Lynda-Maree Morgan 9:42 am 26 Jun 20

I like the idea of taking on Indigenous names, just said the same thing to my family recently. Montague Island, off Narooma, has the indigenous name of Barunguba, I commented that we could name it that, more significant. The island officially began known as “Montagu,” after the Earl of Halifax George Montagu Dunk, in 1790. However, it is unknown who named the island and why they chose “Montagu.” A few years later, the island was officially confirmed as such by Bass and Finders. Like, who is that guy, we never learn about him. Better to learn about cultural heritage.

paulmuster paulmuster 3:44 pm 23 Jun 20

Of course its the exact same crowd who opposed the closure of Uluru who will naturally oppose this proposal.

I don’t know why it bothers this group so much… Most of them wouldn’t get much further into the NPs than the carpark (assuming the carpark has fully serviced bathrooms)

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 2:45 pm 23 Jun 20

No. Leave it as it is.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:41 am 23 Jun 20

“in the Irish Republic in 1995 and the majority of town/city name sign along with road direction signs were in both English & Gaelic…why not here??”

The Gaelic language (spoken and written) served several countries whereas there were lots of different tribes with different verbal languages (none in writing) so “equivalent” signage to reflect indigenous heritage would be in English which is meaningless in context.

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 3:34 pm 22 Jun 20

Great idea. Just because arrogant like minded people agree he was "all right" doesn't mean that they should be immortalised. Naming practices should always consider adopting long standing localized place names from 1st Nation sites where appropriate. Time to right past wrongs.

Rodney Weber Rodney Weber 1:52 pm 22 Jun 20

Grampians/Gariwerd in Victoria. Mind you, this was done quite a while back and the indigenous name hasn't really caught on much yet.

John Hutch John Hutch 7:44 am 22 Jun 20

I’m going to agree with using both the English and indigenous names on road signs and documentation as they do in Wales and is more commonly done nowadays in Scotland too. It would require the government to get involved in the provision of resources for bi-lingual namings and traditional countries.

    Acton Acton 8:50 am 22 Jun 20

    That idea is insensitive to the realities of indigenous history and current situation. In Wales there is a common language. That is not the case in Australia with a multitude of indigenous languages and indistinct indigenous cultural and territorial boundaries. There would be a need to arbitrate lengthy and legally costly disputes over inevitable naming rights and conventions.

Geoff Roberts Geoff Roberts 10:55 pm 21 Jun 20

No way! They are what they are.

Karen De Karen De 10:43 pm 21 Jun 20

Yes Mt Tennent south of Tharwa ACT should lose this name.

Acton Acton 7:51 pm 21 Jun 20

The advocates of these silly ideas can then start thinking of reasons to change the names of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Victoria etc. Are then also change the name of Australia because that is not an indigenous name. And replace the flag too. And the anthem and then the…..

    astro2 astro2 8:52 am 22 Jun 20

    Certainly the King Leopold Ranges needs to have the name changed. There was no good reason to name these ranges after the Belgian King anyway and if you want to read why the name must change (and is being changed) do a search on Leopold of Belgium and you’ll understand why. It isn’t pleasant.

    Acton Acton 9:55 pm 22 Jun 20

    His name has long been infamous. But changing place names sets a divisive precedent for further name changes. And there is also the inability of rival traditional owners and interest groups to agree on an alternative name acceptable to all. Whose character is entirely flawless now and irreproachable in the future?

Gil Maher Gil Maher 7:50 pm 21 Jun 20

Good plan.

Fiona Dickson Fiona Dickson 6:49 pm 21 Jun 20

Please let’s rename Downer too.

russianafroman russianafroman 6:23 pm 21 Jun 20

Yeah, fine, rename them. These types of contentions in society are so ridiculous and detract from real issues. Why not just put it up to a vote? Like what they did with Henry Rolland Park. That way there’s no whining.

Lesley Fitzpatrick Lesley Fitzpatrick 5:46 pm 21 Jun 20

About time!

Chris Barry Chris Barry 4:51 pm 21 Jun 20

I would certainly back every National Park and other landmarks that are named after a slave trader to be renamed.

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