What’s in a name? Call to remove Ben Boyd’s name from Eden national park

Thaua man Steven Holmes says the state government should consider changing the name of Ben Boyd National Park.
Thaua man Steven Holmes says the state government should consider changing the name of Ben Boyd National Park.

Traditional custodians of the area now known as Ben Boyd National Park are calling for the park’s name to be changed in light of the more unsavoury side of Boyd’s dealings in the region.

Thaua elder Steven Holmes, who was born on the south end of Wonboyn Beach, said the “history and present of the place means more than Boyd’s name”.

“Traditional owners have been talking about changing the name for a while,” the 54-year-old said.

“The history of the land is not represented in the name of the park.

“A lot of the folk who read about this bloke think he’s a godsend.

“I can’t believe how much land Boyd took, he didn’t respect the NSW country, he just wanted money."

Stories of Boyd’s “blackbirding” of South Sea Islanders as slave labourers have also been reported by major media outlets in recent years.

In 1847 Boyd brought 65 men from Lifu Island to work on his acquired properties.

They  either died, vanished, or fled north to Sydney in an attempt to get home to what is now called New Caledonia, leading the colonial government of NSW to ban the practice.

Author Tom Mead’s book Empire of Straw details the life of Boyd, who fled Australia bankrupt after years of access to seemingly endless credit from the Royal Bank.

Mead discusses a lengthy investigation in England into his dealings with the bank which  uncovered a staggering shortfall of 740,000 pounds, the equivalent of around $100million today.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said it could consider the change, but added national park names “are expected to be enduring and renaming of these can at times be confusing and disruptive”.

“A name change to a national park could be considered if deemed in the public interest,” a NPWS spokesperson said.

"The process of name changing is by public exhibition and must conform to the Geographic Names Board of New South Wales naming principle requirements."

Mr Holmes, whose ancestor Budginbro, or Chief of Twofold Bay, forged a strong relationship with Boyd and his friend Oswald Walters Brierly, said the Thaua were “happy as Larry” until Europeans arrived in the region.

“They had a good bond, but when the white man came things got chaotic, they changed everything," he said.

"While I read the history I feel I am in my ancestors footsteps."