Major disputes have broken out over the renaming of Ben Boyd National Park, on the NSW Far South Coast, with groups of traditional owners expressing criticism over the choice of name - Beowa - and the consultation process.
A group of elders from Thaua, Bidwell, Nagario, and Yuin clans have reportedly been "angered" by the new name that some members have said does not adequately represent the traditional owners of the land and their strong cultural connections to the park, located on Thaua Country.
Thaua man Steven Holmes said he was "disgusted" the park had been named after an animal, Beowa meaning meaning 'orca' or 'killer whale' in Thaua language according to research conducted by historians and anthropologists initiated by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services.
Mr Holmes thought the name should have been Thaua National Park - representing what he has said were the park's the traditional owners.
Mr Holmes also questioned the origin of the word as he said he had never heard it before.
Mr Holmes thought the renaming of the park should have been delegated solely to Thaua peoples. Thaua Elder, Aunty Maureen Davis agreed in a post she made directly to social media.
A spokesperson from NPWS defended the process, saying an independent facilitator, "used a range of methods to facilitate, collaborate and consult with the local Aboriginal community."
NPWS said consultations occurred between historians, anthropologists, and more than 60 representatives from Indigenous and South Sea Islander communities and took place over 12 months.
It said although South Sea Islanders were informed of the renaming process they did "not have a say on the new name".
Bidwell First National Clans Aboriginal Corporation, who said its ancestors also occupied parts of Thaua Country, has confirmed it has issued a formal complaint to NPWS.
BFNCAC said it was only invited to one meeting in Eden on May 4 in 2022 and that it was not able to attend due to prior commitments, but said, "one meeting does not constitute consultation".
Thaua Bidwell man Phillip Stewart, deputy chairman of BFNCAC claimed a letter from the organisation asking for the park be renamed Kiah National Park, meaning from the beautiful place, was not tabled at the meeting.
"Kiah is how my grandfather (Oswald Stewart) and everyone called it," he said.
NPWS did not respond directly to these allegations but said Beowa was selected as it was consistent with a set of cultural guidelines developed and agreed on by the consultation group, and it most closely aligned with its naming policy and the Geographical Names Board policy.
Mr Stewart claimed he was told by NPWS he would be kept up to date with the process, but said he received no correspondence following the meeting in Eden.
"The only way I found out about it [the name change] was on social media."
"Our organisation is pretty shocked about how it all unfolded."
Mr Stewart said he was not invited to the official unveiling of new signage in the park on September 30.
Mr Holmes said he was invited to attend but chose not to attend due to his disapproval.
NPWS said although new signage had been publicly revealed, an official renaming celebration would not take place until later this year with those involved in the consultation and the wider community invited to attend.
NPWS has begun the process of installing park signage carrying the new name.
Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council chairman and Monaroo Elder BJ Cruse said the most important thing to him was that the name was a traditional word that reflected the cultural heritage of the local area.
"I place the value on that the name has been changed. That's not the name I chose, but I support the name because it reflects the cultural connection to the country.
"I along with other people made the recommendation that all the Aboriginal people connected to the area, either land council or native title have a right to have a say in what the name should be and give their cultural reason as to why it should be that name."
Mr Cruse said he made recommendations that the name should not be put to a vote by the consultation group, " as I don't believe we would have ever reached an agreement on one name from all the people".
He said he felt the decision should have ultimately been up to the Minister to make, "based on the recommended names and the cultural reasons put forward under a consultation process headed by historians and anthropologists."
Mr Cruse felt the consultation process was "fair, open, and it was transparent, and it was all inclusive and non-exclusive".
Separately, consultation has begun on the development of a new model for Aboriginal joint management of NSW national parks.
Mr Cruse was in favour of joint management between local land councils and traditional owners, whereas Mr Homles said it should be delegated solely to traditional owners.
NPWS said the management plan would, "be developed with peak Aboriginal groups, existing joint management partners, Aboriginal groups that have expressed an interest, and native title holders."
It said consultation would also occur with a range of other stakeholders who use national parks, including conservation groups, tourism bodies, local government and recreational users.
"Consultation will include targeted regional workshops and broad scale public consultation," said NPSW.
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