Posted on August 25, 2023

Final Approval Made to Remove Colonial Statue of Former Australian Politician William Crowther in Franklin Square, Hobart

Lauren Evans, Sky News, August 24, 2023

Hobart City Council’s Planning Committee has handed down the final approval to remove a three-decade-old statue of former Australian politician William Crowther.

Crowther, who served as Tasmania’s 14th premier from 1878 to 1879, was a surgeon widely known for decapitating the corpse of Tasmanian Aboriginal man William Lanne, stealing his skull and sending it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

A statue of Crowther was placed in Hobart’s Franklin Square in 1889, four years after his death on April 12, 1885, however debate has grown in recent years for the monument to be taken down.

The removal of the statue is the first of its kind in Australia.

Discussions around the removal of Crowther began in 2018 and has since sparked widespread community debate.

The Hobart City Council last year were asked by the Tasmanian Aboriginal people to consider the removal of the Crowther statue as an act of “reconciliation”.

The Aboriginal community said they felt impacted by the continued presence of the statue, and wanted a more “truthful” history of how First Nations people were treated in colonial Hobart.

The council passed a 7-4 vote last August to remove the statue but it still required permission from the Tasmanian Heritage Council – which approved the decision last week.

The final say was then placed on the Planning Commission which approved the historic call on Wednesday night.

Crowther was one of several colonial figures who were involved in the now discredited field of phrenology, which claimed to be able to determine a person’s character and intelligence based on the shape and size of their skull.

In 1860, Crowther was appointed an honorary medical officer at the Hobart General Hospital but was suspended in March 1869 over charges of mutilating the body of the late William Lanne.

The incident was labelled controversial at the time as many claim phrenology was used to prove Aboriginal people were of lower intelligence than Caucasians.

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said while she welcomes the decision to remove the statue from Franklin Square, the monument itself will be cared for.

“During discussions for our Reconciliation Action Plan a few years ago we became aware that the statue of the former doctor and Premier had been troubling for Tasmania’s First Nations people for generations because of the role he played in removing William Lanne’s head,” she said.

“Crowther was certainly not the only person making transactions in this discredited field of ‘racial science’.

“But he’s the only person with hands-on involvement that has a prominent celebratory statue in Hobart’s main civic square.

“Deciding to relocate this statue doesn’t change history. The records, books, articles, dates and stories associated with the statue will all remain unchanged.”

Ms Reynolds said there will be a 14-day holding period where any appeals against the decision may be lodged with the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Once the two-week period has passed, the City of Hobart will contract the services of a Material Conservator to establish the removal and storage protocol.

The information will then be provided to the Tasmanian Heritage Council as required as a condition of the development application approval.

The Mayor hit back at claims the council were “tearing down” the statue, and said the term was “deliberately emotive and inaccurate.”

“The Council’s careful and deliberative process over several years to consider the removal of this statue has been quite the opposite,” Ms Reynolds said.

“This has been a thorough, fair process and I would like to thank all stakeholders, community members and council staff for their input and work on achieving this historic outcome.”