One year on, the community has come together to celebrate the removal of a slave trader’s name from a national park near Eden, a name that had been an “insult” to First Nations people.
Last year, the NSW South Coast’s 10,000-hectare Ben Boyd National Park was renamed Beowa National Park, which means ‘killer whale’ in the local Thaua language, following requests from locals.
The state government had accepted that Boyd was involved in ‘blackbirding’, which is a form of slavery. 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.
“It was an insult to Aboriginal people that such a beautiful landscape be named after such an evil person,” Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO BJ Cruse said.
“It was an insult and he didn’t deserve it.”
Traditional custodians and South Sea Islander elders came together to mark one year since the national park was renamed, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment said.
The community celebrated with dancing, music and an emotional welcome to country.
Steven Holmes, traditional custodian of Thaua Country, said that having the park named in Thaua Country language made him very proud.
“I didn’t believe such a big place that holds a very special spot in my heart should be named after a man who hurt so many people,” he said.
“Being a traditional custodian, it meant a lot to all the Thaua people to finally get rid of Ben Boyd’s name.
“The ceremony on the weekend was very special. Everything that needed to be said was.”
Mr Cruse said last year’s renaming process and the new name for the park was a positive action towards reconciliation.
He said the local Aboriginal community was feeling good about the name change, and he personally hadn’t received any negative feedback about it from the non-Aboriginal community.
While there were some Aboriginal people who might have wanted a different name, he thought it was appropriate.
“I feel the name was fitting because of the Aboriginal people’s involvement in the whaling industry,” Mr Cruse said.
“I think it’s a good name, it reflects the local Aboriginal culture and their relationship with whales.”
Ms (Waskam) Emelda Davis, founder of Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson, said last week’s celebration was particularly important for Aboriginal and South Sea Islander people because they are wan sol wara, meaning one saltwater people.
“Celebrating the renaming gives ownership, it decolonises what occurred, and it tells the truth,” she said.
“It speaks truth to the First Nations people of this region, that have sustained for over 65,000 years, bringing light the atrocities that occurred for Aboriginal and South Sea Islanders.”
It was also Mr Cruse’s understanding that there were moves to change the names of some other places in the local area.
He said within Beowa National Park, there were some points and bays that had traditional names, but these had been changed by Europeans, so there were moves to change them back.
Original Article published by Albert McKnight on About Regional.