Montague Island Nature Reserve has been given a dual Aboriginal name, in honour of the cultural significance of the island to the Yuin people.
What will now known as Barunguba Montague Island Nature Reserve, off Narooma, is valued as a significant ceremonial area and resource gathering place.
In addition to its Aboriginal cultural values and state-listed European lighthouse heritage, the nature reserve protects several seabird species, one of the largest little penguin colonies in the state, and Australian and New Zealand fur seals.
New signage for the nature reserve was revealed on Tuesday (June 4) with local Indigenous Elders, and NSW Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, and Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland among other dignitaries in attendance.
Walbunja and Yuin Elder, Uncle Bunja Smith, was one of those present at the unveiling of the new signs and said the process of renaming Barunguba Montague Island Nature Reserve was initiated by the Aboriginal traditional owners to recognise the cultural heritage of the site.
“From Mother mountain Gulaga, came the two sons. Najanuka and Barunguba. We know this because it is in our stories and our songs,” Bunja Smith said.
“As an Aboriginal man and a Yuin Elder, I am filled with emotion to be standing here with the ministers and our local member, to hear the word “Barunguba” sounded out as it should be,” he said.
“I know this will delight all our Elders and Tribes people past, present and emerging.
“I pray that the spirit of this scared place touches the hearts of the wider south coast community and all visitors who may come. May we always say yes to reconciliation, as it always was and always will be Aboriginal land, Walawanni.”
NSW Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, said she was delighted to be there to officially announce the dual name of Barunguba Montague Island Nature Reserve.
“The cultural significance of Barunguba has been passed down by ancestors to the traditional Yuin custodians of the Far South Coast and I acknowledge the effort of the traditional owners in leading this name change,” Ms Sharpe said.
“The Aboriginal name will sit alongside the non-Aboriginal name and I look forward to seeing Barunguba Montague Island Nature Reserve become widely and commonly used.”
The change comes a month after the traditional name of Queensland’s Fraser Island, K’Gari was restored and almost a year after Ben Boyd National Park on the South Coast of NSW was renamed Beowa National Park.
The decision to rename Ben Boyd National Park followed requests from Aboriginal communities to rename the park due to Boyd’s practice of ‘Blackbirding’.
In the early 19th century Boyd took people from the islands of what is now Vanuatu and New Caledonia to work on his pastoral stations in New South Wales. This practice, which Boyd started, later developed into what became known as the ‘Blackbirding trade’.
The name ‘Beowa’ celebrates the important connection between the park’s coastline and the spiritual lives of its first inhabitants, as well as their beliefs and cultural practices associated with the ocean, in particular orcas, which were recently spotted off Merimbula and Pambula and which the town of Eden has a long history and connection with.
Images: Penny Sharpe, Flying Parrot, James Fennessy – East Coast Radio