Ben Boyd banished?
North Shore MP Felicity Wilson has weighed in on a growing debate regarding the future of Ben Boyd Road, after the local thoroughfare’s namesake was discovered to have links to slavery.
In late June, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean revealed he would be commissioning a historian to investigate Scottish merchant Ben Boyd’s record, considering Boyd’s work as a slave trader.
Boyd was involved in ‘blackbirding’ – a form of slavery which saw Pacific Islanders forcibly brought to Australia to work on plantations.
Following the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year, community calls increased on NSW’s south coast to rename Eden’s Ben Boyd National Park.
This led to the Minister announcing he would investigate Boyd’s history, and sparked a movement on Sydney’s north shore urging for Ben Boyd Road to also be renamed.
An online petition by Neutral Bay resident Jack Gough calling for the name to be stripped from the main road, as well as a school sports house at Neutral Bay Public School, has since attracted more than 280 signatures.
“It is totally unacceptable that such a racist and inhumane man should continue to be ‘honoured’ in the name of a prominent road in Neutral Bay and a school house,” Mr Gough said on social media.
North Shore Living has been told by local MP Ms Wilson she has spoken to Mr Kean ahead of the investigation into Boyd.
“I have heard from some people in our community with concerns about the history of Ben Boyd and naming practices for public spaces,” Ms Wilson says.
“I understand these concerns and have discussed his history with the Minister for Environment to ensure community views are heard in any potential review into the use of Ben Boyd in public naming practices.”
However, North Sydney Council has voiced concern at the logistics and impact on the local community, should a review recommend the name be changed.
“If the Council were to consider changing the name, it’s not something that could be done quickly,” a spokesperson says.
“Community consultation would be needed, especially with the residents and businesses on Ben Boyd Road, and we would need to get approval from the NSW Geographical Names Board.”