Beowa name change celebrated one year on

Traditional Custodians and South Sea Islander Elders came together last week, marking one year since Beowa National Park was renamed to honour the continuing cultural significance of the area.

Two young dancers in ceremonial dress photographed at a moment when they are both about a foot off the ground, their own noontime shadows directly beneath, with ceremonial smoke in the background

Steven Holmes, Traditional Custodian of Thaua Country, spoke at the celebration saying to have the park named in Thaua Country language makes him very proud.

'I didn't believe such a big place that holds a very special spot in my heart should be named after a man who hurt so many people,' Mr Holmes said.

'Being a Traditional Custodian, it meant a lot to all the Thaua people to finally get rid of Ben Boyd's name.

'The ceremony on the weekend was very special. Everything that needed to be said was,' Mr Holmes said.

BJ Cruse, Chairperson of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, said last year’s renaming process and new name for the park is a positive action towards reconciliation.

'It rectified wrongs of the past by taking the honour away from someone that didn’t deserve it and acknowledges Aboriginal people,' Mr Cruse said.

Nearly 12 months since the 10,000 hectare park on the NSW far south coast was renamed, the community celebrated with dancing, music and an emotional Welcome to Country.

With representatives from Thaua Country Aboriginal Corporation, Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council, Twofold Aboriginal Corporation and the Australian South Sea Islander community attending, all reflected on the significant shift towards truth telling.

Ms (Waskam) Emelda Davis, founder of Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson, said the celebration was particularly important for Aboriginal and South Sea Islander people because they are wan sol wara, meaning one saltwater people.

'Celebrating the renaming gives ownership, it decolonises what occurred, and it tells the truth,' Ms Davis said.

'It speaks truth to the First Nations people of this region, that have sustained for over 65,000 years, bringing light [to] the atrocities that occurred for Aboriginal and South Sea Islanders,' Ms Davis said.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) began a process to rename Ben Boyd National Park in 2021 after a historian’s report confirmed Boyd’s role in the practice of blackbirding. NPWS asked the community for suggestions, and the park was renamed Beowa National Park in November 2022.

In naming and dual-naming NSW national parks, NPWS is committed to recognising and acknowledging Aboriginal cultural connections to places.

More information on the significance of the new name, including a summary of the consultation process [PDF 2.93MB] can be found on the NSW Environment and Heritage website.

Images available from Dropbox