Renaming of Gwynneville reserve in dispute

The family of well-known Wollongong community workers Efram and Guilia Bonacina hope to rename Gwynneville's Spearing Reserve as Bonacina Park in honour of the late couple.

After migrating to Australia in 1961, the Bonacinas dedicated more than 40 years to volunteer work and charity fund-raising.

Their eldest child, Marzia Zochil, said they deserved recognition as they worked tirelessly their whole lives.

"My parents did a lot of work, not only for the Italian community but the community at large," she said.

The couple started working in Wollongong in 1976, welcoming Italian and Spanish migrants to the city, and went on to set up a professional interpreting service, co-found Senior Citizen's Week and the Migrant Heritage Project, and become Fellows of the University of Wollongong.

Mrs Zochil's husband, Marino, came up with the idea of having a street named after the couple, but was told by Wollongong City Council that wasn't possible.

"They wrote to us and said there were four parks available, and that we could choose one of them to rename," Mrs Zochil said.

Despite recognising the Bonacinas' contribution, historian and author Babette Smith opposes the renaming.

She had no doubt the family was "very worthy of commemoration" but believed their name should not replace that of early Illawarra landholder James Spearing.

Ms Smith said Mr Spearing's disputes with his convict workforce and local Irish magistrate were an important part of the region's early European history. The botanic garden and the university now stand on his original land.

"I just don't think we should go about replacing one layer of history with another, because you obliterate many historic links," Ms Smith said.

Wollongong residents have until March 23 to comment on the renaming proposal.

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