Adeshola Ore, The Guardian, January 29, 2024
An inner-city Melbourne council is considering permanently removing a Captain Cook memorial that has been repeatedly vandalised, amid a series of attacks on statues and monuments.
A series of anti-Australia Day protests across the city last week targeted monuments of colonial figures, including the cutting down of a Captain Cook statue in St Kilda.
The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, on Tuesday said the government would offer support for councils to repair and restore the monuments that were vandalised.
A stone memorial to Cook that lies at the eastern entrance of Edinburgh Gardens, in Fitzroy North, was toppled and spray-painted with the words “cook the colony” on Sunday.
A Yarra city council officer on Monday recommended the memorial be permanently removed due to the serious, irreparable damage and because it has “little or no significance” to the park.
The advice was contained in an email to councillors and first reported by the Age.
“Due to health and safety concerns the memorial will be removed from location and placed in storage, and the remaining damaged base will be marked with safety cones and assessed for removal,” the officer said in the email, seen by Guardian Australia.
The officer said the graffiti had been initially cleaned, but would probably need a specialist to remove the paint more thoroughly, noting the break in the granite equated to “serious structural damage for the object”.
They said the memorial had been damaged multiple times in recent years, including several graffiti incidents that coincided with 26 January, and plaques bearing the image of Cook have been stolen.
Under council’s policy to remove an object from its collection, it must meet one or more of the following criteria: be in poor condition or have suffered irreparable damage; have no known provenance or legal ownership other than the council; pose a risk to public safety that cannot be mitigated; is lost or stolen without the possibility of recovery; or there are copies of items already in the collection.
The officer said discussions were under way to remove the memorial from the council’s collection and there was already support for this. It said fully restoring the object would require experts to provide a full cost breakdown.
The officer said the grounds for support included the “poor integrity of the object” and noted the Edinburgh Gardens’ conservation management plan found the memorial as an item in the park that had “little or no significance”.
Allan said the government would support the Yarra city and Port Phillip councils – where the Captain Cook statue was vandalised in St Kilda – to repair and restore their monuments.
But she said Yarra city council would need to be a “willing partner” and decide if it wanted the memorial reinstated. Allan reiterated that vandalism had no place anywhere.
Yarra city councillor Stephen Jolly said the potential removal of the memorial was a “non-issue”.
“Is this the best use of ratepayers money when we’ve got rate-capping, massive demands on our children’s services, libraries and all the other things we do?” he told Guardian Australia.
Jolly said he would discuss with the council the possibility of providing the plaque to a historical society.
Last week, the Captain Cook statue in St Kilda was sawn off at the ankles and spray painted with the words “the colony will fall” on the eve of 26 January. A statue of Queen Victoria was also targeted with red paint on the same day.
A Yarra city council spokesperson confirmed the Captain Cook monument was removed after Sunday’s vandalism.
“In the meantime, council will assess the damage to determine next steps and keep the community informed,” the spokesperson said.