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

Elka Wood 18 June 2020 58
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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58 Responses to Push to rename national parks to reflect Indigenous heritage, not colonial history
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.

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.

Pat Murray Pat Murray 4:39 pm 21 Jun 20

I hope Tadeusz Kosciuszko doesn’t turn out to be a slave trader.

Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 3:46 pm 21 Jun 20

Truly I will get lost if changed at my age, can we have both names for a while, slow progression, or only change one at a time?

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 6:47 pm 21 Jun 20

    Paula Simcocks yes, because it’s all about you.

    Katie Lambart Katie Lambart 7:38 pm 21 Jun 20

    Paula Simcocks I’m sure they can try to manage the change to help everyone

    Solomon Turnbull Solomon Turnbull 8:58 pm 21 Jun 20

    You wouldn't know where Black Mt was if the name changed lol?

    Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 9:05 am 22 Jun 20

    Solomon Turnbull easy if only a few sites to adjust - obviously like Black Mountain , but presumed a row of coastal towns could get renamed so maybe 6 at a time my older brain could deal

    With , so if we staged a turn around , it would be good.

    Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 9:07 am 22 Jun 20

    Black mtn renamed easy, a Row of small towns renamed harder so about 6 a year is probably my limit, maybe target schools as well to have kids learn new names as yr 7 geography is full of map reading exercises learning places

    Solomon Turnbull Solomon Turnbull 1:09 pm 22 Jun 20

    I don't think anythings going to change quickly Paula. I like your ideas about change....if only it ever happens.

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 3:20 pm 21 Jun 20

Sounds like a great idea

Leo Menssen Leo Menssen 3:11 pm 21 Jun 20

Ben Boyd was a filthy slave trader.

Patrizia Berti Patrizia Berti 3:08 pm 21 Jun 20

All names are significant it makes sense to have both.

Shane McMinn Shane McMinn 2:58 pm 21 Jun 20

Perhaps there should be joint naming of towns in both Indigenous & English languages across Australia... I was 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??

Fabio Fabbo Fabio Fabbo 2:40 pm 21 Jun 20

Yes, of authentic, indigenous significance would be meaningful

Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy 2:31 pm 21 Jun 20

Why not just wipe off everything

Start again

And let’s not forget that English is just one language

Indigenous languages are all different

So we all learn multiple indigenous languages

    Jo Reid Jo Reid 4:59 pm 21 Jun 20

    Jane Kennedy sounds good to me!

    Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy 5:26 pm 21 Jun 20

    if we erase history we are doomed to repeat it

    There are also plenty of places towns cities named after great ‘white’ people

    Solomon Turnbull Solomon Turnbull 8:57 pm 21 Jun 20

    Not erasing it hasn't helped Jane. And whose talking about erasing history, people are suggesting telling the whole truth of our history & changing who we name things after accordingly.

Greg Oakes Greg Oakes 2:28 pm 21 Jun 20

Ben Boyd was a black birder, so I reckon changing the name is great idea.

David Jolley David Jolley 2:22 pm 21 Jun 20

Does that mean that most Aboriginal people would have to change their own names as most are English. There no need to rename anything it's all history and you cant change history.

    Jim Roy Jim Roy 3:25 pm 21 Jun 20

    David Jolley you can’t change history, you are bang on.

    But you can teach ‘white history’ as I was taught and ignore very bad things, alas.

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 6:48 pm 21 Jun 20

    David Jolley no but you can make it accurate.

    David Jolley David Jolley 8:22 pm 21 Jun 20

    Jim Roy teach all history like i was taught l love history good or bad

    David Jolley David Jolley 8:23 pm 21 Jun 20

    Annie Mills i dont have a problem with that. I love all history

    Jim Roy Jim Roy 8:27 pm 21 Jun 20

    David Jolley no doubt but we don’t have Hitler Plaza or Goerring Place?

    This is about change

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 8:35 pm 21 Jun 20

    David Jolley me either, but at the moment it is very one sided. I would like to see more balance and nuance as well as other voices.

    Solomon Turnbull Solomon Turnbull 8:55 pm 21 Jun 20

    You might not love all history David Jolley if it was full of lies & omissions about your culture.

Barry Finch Barry Finch 1:49 pm 21 Jun 20

I think this would be a great idea.

Tony Armstrong Tony Armstrong 1:37 pm 21 Jun 20

Talking on ABC breakfast radio this week, the presenter asked an indigenous spokeman spokesman the name of places in Canberra. Eg Black Mt. He replied unlike Europeans they didn‘t give every hill, mountain, creek etc a name. Only those few that served a purpose. When pushed, he said “I suppose we could find a name if needed”.

Terry West Terry West 12:56 pm 21 Jun 20

How about no

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