Black Lives Matter protests have reignited a push to remove or alter monuments of Australian colonial figures — including Captain Cook and John Batman.
Black Lives Matter protests have reignited a push to remove or alter monuments of Australian colonial figures — including Captain Cook and John Batman.

New push to remove Cook monuments

Black Lives Matter protests have reignited a push to remove or alter monuments of Australian colonial figures after statues of slave traders were torn down overseas.

More than 70 statues in the UK are under threat from the "Topple the Racists" campaign, with the debate at home extending to how Victorians should handle memorials for names including Captain James Cook, Angus McMillan and John Batman.

But the Prime Minister yesterday railed against these calls and said left-wing groups had "hijacked" public support for indigenous Australians.

Lidia Thorpe, Victoria's first female Aboriginal MP, said it was time to reopen the public discussion.

She said monuments to people involved in massacres were of greatest concern.

"I don't want to go around smashing statues down, I don't think that's the answer," she said. "We need to see it as an opportunity to reconcile our past and grow as a nation by telling the whole truth.

People take turns kicking the Christopher Columbus statue after it was toppled in front of the Minnesota State Capitol. Picture: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
People take turns kicking the Christopher Columbus statue after it was toppled in front of the Minnesota State Capitol. Picture: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune

"Angus McMillan is celebrated and is seen to be a hero.

"What isn't being told is he's also been responsible for the mass murder of Gunnai people. As a Gunnai woman that's hurtful."

A St Kilda memorial to Cook and another honouring Burke and Wills were defaced in January 2018 ahead of Australia Day protests.

When asked yesterday if his electorate of Cook should be renamed, PM Scott Morrison told 3AW he did not support the push. "Cook was no slave trader in his age," he said. "What has begun with, you know, very important issues and important issues here in Australia, is now getting hijacked by the usual sort of band of noise makers who just want to make an attack on Australia and its society."

Captain Cook statue in St Kilda. Picture: Jason Edwards
Captain Cook statue in St Kilda. Picture: Jason Edwards

"They've got to pull their heads in."

Roads Minister Jaala Pulford, speaking on behalf of the state government, said it was important to consider preserving the state's history when discussing its monuments.

"But (so is) also being mindful that there might be some monuments that are offensive to some members of the community," she said.

"Those are serious questions that require very thoughtful consideration."

Port Phillip Council mayor Bernadene Voss said the James Cook statue was a council asset. "The statue is among a number of Council sites and assets monitored by our security company during routine patrols."

kieran.rooney@news.com.au

Originally published as New push to remove Melbourne's Cook monuments


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