Statues of colonial figures are under threat in inner-city Melbourne, with a council audit set to determine if the controversial monuments should be removed.
The Yarra Valley Council passed a unanimous motion to carry out a ‘stocktake’ of plaques, statues and monuments associated with the ‘oppression’ of Aboriginal Australians.
This includes the Captain Cook monument in Fitzroy North which was recently defaced by Black Lives Matter protesters with the words ‘shame’ and ‘destroy white supremacy’.
The review will also extend the names of public places including parks and buildings.
The Captain Cook monument in Fitzroy North was recently defaced by Black Lives Matter protesters with the words ‘shame’ and ‘destroy white supremacy’
A Melbourne Black Lives Matter Protester is pictured wearing a face mask reading ‘More scared of a racist world than a pandemic’
‘Yarra Council declared its support for the global Black Lives Matter movement at a Council Meeting last night,’ a statement attached to Councillor Amanda Stone’s motion said.
‘The motion was prepared in consultation with Yarra’s Yana Ngargna advisory group, made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, and was passed unanimously by all Councillors without debate.
‘Yarra Council commits to fighting racism, preventing Aboriginal deaths in custody, and advocating for broader understandings of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experiences, issues and stories.’
The issue of colonial statues in Melbourne and other parts of Australia, has been part of a wider global debate sparked by mass protests over racial inequality and injustice in the US.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted after African-American man George Floyd was killed at the hand of white police officers in Minneapolis in May.
The shocking video triggered similar protests across the world and reignited discussion about historic monuments and place names linked to racism and slavery.
An Indigenous Black Lives Matter protester attends the Melbourne rally wearing a face mask
Protesters are seen during a Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, in solidarity with US demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd
In the city of Bristol in the UK, demonstrators tore down the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston and hurled it in the river.
Recently, American House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to remove all Confederate statues from the US Capitol Building.
Place names and landmarks set to be audited by Yarra Council
Captain Cook monument, Fitzroy North
Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten, Richmond
Florence Peel Centre
Collingwood Town Hall
Fitzroy Town Hall
Burnley railway station
August, 2020: A report on civic signage or artwork to acknowledge the rate of Black Deaths in Custody will be handed down
September, 2020: A report will be delivered into how the community would like the council to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement
December, 2020: The audit on public statues, plaques, monuments and place names will be completed.
During 2021: Community consultation will begin.
In Australia, tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters marched on Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide in early June, to demonstrate against the rate of Indigenous deaths in custody.
Since those protests a number of Australian monuments have been defaced.
Two women were charged by police after the Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park was vadalised.
A 30-year-old man was also arrested in Perth the Captain James Stirling statue was defaced.
But the vandals who spray painted offensive insults on the the statues of former Australian prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard in Ballarat, have not been caught.
Nor has the culprit responsible for defacing the statue of Captain Cook in Melbourne’s Fitzroy North.
‘We are committing to taking a look at all the historical people and events represented in statues, plaques, monuments and other signage, and examining anything that may be associated with oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ the motion said.
‘This does not necessarily mean we are committing to removing or replacing any historical markers. The intention is to understand and ultimately share the full extent of our history here in Yarra, and tell a complete story.
‘This story cannot be complete without also including our Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.’
But not everyone is in favour of the move and Ratepayers Victoria President Dean Hurlston said while most ratepayers supported the Black Lives Matter movement, the audit is a massive over-reach from the Yarra Council.
‘Councils need to focus on roads, rates and rubbish and stay out of this space,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘What local councils should do is refer this matter to the State Government and ask them to get the National Council for Reconciliation involved.’ he said.
The auditing process is scheduled to be completed by December 2020.
The cost of the process is yet to be revealed.
A sea of Black Lives Matter protesters are pictured in Melbourne outside Flinders Street Station
The Captain Cook monument in Melbourne’s Fitzroy North was cleaned after being defaced