captain cook statue covered in pink paint
(Image: AAP/David Crosling)

Australia is littered with weathered bronze statues of men standing proudly with one foot forward and a plaque beneath them describing their triumphs over the country. Which ones should fall?

Many of these white men (yes, they’re almost always white men — women make up less than 5% of statues in major cities, and statues of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people are few and far between) have committed war crimes and massacres. 

Across the US and the UK, statues of such men are being pulled down in response to the Black Lives Matter movements. 

Crikey takes a look at some of Australia’s more problematic monuments.

Charles Cameron Kingston, statue in Victoria Square, Adelaide, SA: A lawyer and politician, Kingston was a strong advocate of a white Australia and is regarded as the originator of the White Australia policy, which was in place until 1973. He opposed Chinese immigration, and was initially opposed to women’s right to vote, but changed his tune in his later years.

Robert Towns, statue in Townsville, Queensland: Towns was a merchant, entrepreneur and slave trader. He organised the kidnapping and enslaving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work on his farms. He brought shiploads of people from Melanesia — some paid, many not — and attempted to establish a colony of islanders on his plantation.

Captain James Cook, statues in Hyde Park, Sydney and St Kilda, Melbourne: Where to begin. These statues have had pink paint poured over them, “no pride in genocide” spray-painted under them and have been a constant source of contention and vandalism. 

Sydney’s Hyde Park statue reads, “Discovered this territory 1770″, forgetting the occupation by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. Despite being instructed to take possession of the land with the “consent of the natives,” and “cultivate a friendship”, Cook shot at locals.

His arrival triggered the displacement and genocide of Australia’s First Nations people, and the incorrect declaration of the land as terra nullis — uninhabited. 

Governor Lachlan Macquarie, statue in Hyde Park, Sydney: A British military officer and colonial administrator, Macquarie ordered his troops to massacre Indigenous people then steal the surviving children. He ordered the Appin massacre in 1816, where at least 14 people of the Dharawal tribe were killed in NSW.

John Batman, monument at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne: Batman is called the “founder of Melbourne”, though he claimed that title through massacre and murder. He was a bounty hunter in the 1820s, working in the “black wars” — a government-sanctioned genocide of the of Palawa people, Indigenous to modern-day Tasmania. He led massacres, killing Aboriginal people while they slept, and designed a bogus treaty with the Wurundjeri traditional owners of Melbourne to take over the land. Karma caught up with him: he died from syphilis, which caused his nose to fall off. 

Thomas Mitchell, plaques in Mount Napier, Victoria and Camperdown Park, Sydney: An explorer and surveyor, Mitchell chartered many rivers across NSW. He also killed seven Indigenous warriors in NSW. 

Alfred Canning, monument in Lake Disappointment, WA: Canning was commissioned to conduct land surveys and establish wells across the Kimberley to the Kalgoorlie goldfields. To do this, Canning tied local Martu men to trees by chains around their neck, fed them salt then followed them as they searched for water. He also raped Aboriginal women.