- Letter Writer
- History - general, Letter to the Editor
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- RAN Ships
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- December 2022 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
An email was received from a member relating to the story contained in the September 2022 issue of this magazine What’s in a Name: The Ben Boyd National Park. This brings our attention to a media release following the New South Wales government announcement made on 30 September 2022. Inter alia this says:
The Ben Boyd National Park has been renamed Beowa National Park. In a commitment to acknowledging and respecting Aboriginal cultural heritage of this area, Beowa National Park was renamed in 2022, in consultation with local Aboriginal custodians. The new name Beowa means ‘orca’ in Thaua language and comes after consultation with Aboriginal and South Sea Islander communities.
New South Wales environment minister, James Griffin, says indigenous groups on the south coast called for a change because of Ben Boyd’s links to blackbirding. ‘The Aboriginal community in this area called for us to rename Ben Boyd national park because of Boyd’s shocking legacy of blackbirding’ said Minister Griffin, referring to the luring, tricking and taking of people from island nations in the Pacific to work in Australia. Their descendants, Australian South Sea Islanders, were recognised as a distinct cultural group by the federal government in 1994.
Historian Dr Mark Dunn completed an analysis and evaluation of Boyd’s involvement in blackbirding for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife service in May last year. Boyd immigrated from Scotland in 1842, already wealthy, with the ‘clear purpose of building a business and pastoral empire and taking advantage of opportunities provided by his connections and his directorship of the Royal Bank of Australia, which he had established, to achieve his goals’, Dunn reported.
Within four years he was one of the biggest landowners outside the crown. By 1847, he was sending ships to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, bringing 192 men and women to NSW to work on his estates. Dunn noted Boyd’s actions were ‘controversial at the time and viewed as a form of slavery by many of his contemporary critics. His methods were coercive, and one voyage included bombarding island villages that killed numerous people’, Dunn said. He noted Boyd died in the Solomon Islands in 1851.
He was also involved in whaling, and the new name of the national park of Beowa in Thaua language means orca – commonly called the killer whale. A pod of orcas was known for assisting whalers near Eden in the 19th century and are considered a totemic animal to some indigenous people. ‘Traditionally, killer whales were our ancestors’, Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council’s chair B.J. Cruse said. ‘when our ancestors died their spirits went into the whales, they were like family’.
Minister Griffin said the renaming is another significant step towards reconciliation. ‘Through an extensive consultative 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’, Griffin said.
Faye Campbell was one Aboriginal representative involved in the consultation process. ‘My ancestor Budgenbro used to communicate with the killer whales and there were lots of stories to share, now we can’, she said.
By Editor: It could be argued that this valuable consultation has been limited in scope and that a more inclusive process including those with an historic perspective and maritime narrative might broaden the approach and outcomes.