“They could have named it after any race of person. I think government should set the mood by doing the right thing and change the names. Multicultural society should have a say in what the name should be. Maybe we could have a competition at the high school.”
Nathan Moran, CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council in Redfern, said Boyd was one of Australia’s first slave traders. “It’s called blackbirding but let’s call it what it is – slave trading,” he said. “Having the name Ben Boyd rubbed in your face, particularly for the South Coast mob … must be very aggravating to know that name’s there.
“It is at our forefront to be part of the healing which involves truth. People should be aware of Boyd’s true history, not the glorification and rewriting of history.”
Sharon Tapscott, mayor of the Bega Valley Shire, said some mountains in the area had been given dual Indigenous and European names. “We are quite comfortable with dual names,” she said. Of Boyd she added: “He did come here as the first European settler, so I suppose you cannot erase that out of history. We need to acknowledge that this is the truth of what happened. If you don’t acknowledge the truth and the good or the bad of it you are destined to repeat it.”
Mr Kean said “our national parks are about connecting people, not dividing them”.
A Royal Australian History Society (RAHS) commemorative plaque in Ben Boyd Road in Neutral Bay describes Boyd as a banker, merchant, pastoralist and whaler. It says he was a resident of the locality from 1842-1849. Alongside there’s a coloured engraving of Boyd’s yacht ‘Wanderer’. One resident has written this week to the North Sydney mayor requesting a name change.
Christine Yeats, president of the RAHS, said Boyd had wool washing facilities at Neutral Bay and a home called ‘Craignathan’. She said renaming the road would be a matter for the Geographical Names Board.
“We have representation on the board and support the policy of appropriate renaming and dual naming,” she said. “The Ben Boyd National Park was gazetted in 1972 in the context of those times. These days we are far more aware of issues about his history which would render it not so appropriate that he be commemorated in that way.”
North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson said renaming the road hadn’t been discussed in council and there would need to be lengthy community consultation.
Sharmila Soorian, P&C president at Neutral Bay Public School, said it was beyond their remit to rename the school house. “If the name of the national park or the road changes we will, of course, follow suit,” she said.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said a parent raised the matter on Wednesday with the school, which is seeking advice from the department.
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Tim Barlass is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald