A National Park Named after Ben Boyd?

John Blay, writer and naturalist

Within days of arriving in Twofold Bay in 1842, Oswald Brierly, artist and manager of Ben Boyd’s estate there, wrote of how Boyd imagined himself the founder of a second Rome. They needed only to ‘point to various spots which are to bear our names and thru them live down to future ages’. In his euphoria on establishing an empire based in such a beautiful locality Boyd decided to change its name from Beermuna to Boyd or, optimistically, Boyd Town. But it would never achieve the lofty ambitions of his wildest dreams. He reached out for workers and briefly saw the Aboriginal people as his serfs or peasant labourers. It worked no better than his agitation to reintroduce transportation of convicts, on his way to (briefly) becoming the biggest landholder in the country, financed by capital raised in London, where interest rates were low, and used in NSW where the rates were high. As overlord bringing prosperity to the wilderness, he saw blackbirding as the answer to his problems of finding workers. But his empire failed by 1849 and he was bankrupted.

The Ben Boyd National Park was first reserved in 1971. Boyd was a well-known local figure, but more recently the name’s suitability has been brought into question. Much respected Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Ossie Cruse, says ‘It’s inappropriate. The name represents the genocide.’ Traditional custodian Steven Holmes first called for the name change two years ago. Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council Chair, BJ Cruse wants extensive consultation with the Aboriginal community before the new name is decided upon. The Elders should be consulted first but he would like to see the Aboriginal schoolchildren involved

The Ben Boyd National Park falls into two parts. One located south of Twofold Bay, the other to the north and about the Pambula Inlet. They come within the Thaua language and the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council’s area. From discussions around Eden in recent weeks, I could find nobody who favoured leaving the name as it is. The Aboriginal community are looking forward to the consultations and might prefer different names for the northern and southern parts of the park. Names under discussion include locality names like Quondolo and Jigamy for the northern part, and for the southern part, Mowarry and Bittangabee, or Budginbro, a celebrated Aboriginal leader of Boyd’s time.

While I would happily see his name wiped off our maps tomorrow, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. The management plan is currently being reviewed to permit questionable developments along the Light to Light walk. Comprehensive community consultations will take quite a while. A formal resolution from Bega Valley Shire Council is required before it can be presented to the Geographical Names Board. By the same token, nobody’s wanting to change the name of his tower, a folly, overlooking Twofold Bay.

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