A NSW national park named for a nineteenth century businessman who coerced people from the South Pacific to come to NSW to work on his estates will be renamed in the local Aboriginal language.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean announced the decision to rename Ben Boyd National Park on the NSW far south coast on Sunday.
“It is time to acknowledge the real history of Ben Boyd and remove his name from the national park that continues to hold enormous cultural significance for Aboriginal people,” Mr Kean said.
The decision follows a push from local Aboriginal people to drop Ben Boyd’s name because of his association with “blackbirding”.
Blackbirding was the name for kidnapping or tricking Pacific Islanders to work in Australia for no or little pay.
A historian commissioned by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to investigate the Scottish businessman’s history on the south coast found he brought 192 men and women to NSW to work on his estates and ships in 1847.
Even at the time, his practices were seen as a form of slavery by critics, historian Mark Dunn found.
His second voyage to recruit workers “descended into extreme violence” when his ships bombarded villages and killed numerous Islanders, Dr Dunn said.
Boyd, who was also a whaler and pastorist, fell victim to his own crimes when he was killed while raiding the Solomon Islands in 1851.
Though his scheme failed after the NSW parliament passed a law voiding his contracts with the workers, the practice of blackbirding later became prolific in Queensland.
Some 62,000 men were brought to work on plantations in northern NSW and Queensland between 1863 and 1904.
Shunned, not celebrated
“It is clear from the expert historical analysis that Ben Boyd’s association with ‘blackbirding’ should not be reflected or celebrated in any way in our national parks,” said Mr Kean.
“There are many people from NSW’s early history who are worth remembering and celebrating but it is clear from this historical analysis that Ben Boyd is not one of them.”
Consultation will now begin with elders and Aboriginal community representatives to find a new name for the park.
“By renaming the park, we not only celebrate ancient Aboriginal culture but also recognise its importance to Aboriginal people in recent history,” Mr Kean said.
Boyd, who was killed by Islanders at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Island group in 1851, also has a road named after him in Neutral Bay in northern Sydney.
The North Sydney Council decided against renaming the road in September.