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Kimberley’s King Leopold ranges, named after Belgian King Leopold II, responsible for deaths of 15 million Africans to be renamed

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WA’s King Leopold ranges, named after the Belgian King Leopold II, who was responsible for the deaths of up to 15 million Africans during the colonial era, will be renamed.

The announcement comes amid global protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

King Leopold II never visited WA and is not believed to have any connection to the state, other than having the ranges, in WA’s Kimberley region, named after him.

WA Lands Minister Ben Wyatt told the ABC King Leopold II was an “evil tyrant” who should not be honoured in WA, and said that his statue in Antwerp had been recently taken down after being repeatedly vandalised during Black Lives Matter protests.

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Camera IconLands minister Ben Wyatt. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“He was a nasty piece of work and we have this odd historical artefact still with us about why it is named after him,” he said.

“The government has been keen to change this for a long time now.”

Mr Wyatt said the name had not yet changed because it was subject to a number of native title negotiations and because there was not one traditional name for that area.

The King Leopold ranges will be re-named.
Camera IconThe King Leopold ranges will be re-named. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

He said the government was in the process of finding out Aboriginal groups’ traditional names for the ranges and would be able to re-name them ‘quickly’ when there was a consensus from the two main groups there.

The ranges were named by Alexander Forrest who wanted to ‘pay tribute’ to King Leopold as an explorer in 1879.

As king, Leopold II declared the Congo belonged to him personally and made a fortune out of ivory and rubber.

Under his direction, slaves, including children, had their hands, feet and ears cut off for ‘poor productivity’ or rebellion.

Mr Wyatt said there were other sites that also needed their names changed, including Piccaninny Creek in the East Kimberley’s Purnululu National Park, and Blackboy Park in the City of Joondalup.

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