A statue of the explorer Captain James Cook – credited with the discovery of Australia in 1770 – has caused racial tension in city of Sydney on Thursday, with calls for it to be removed from where it currently stands in Hyde Park, along with other statues of historical figures.
In an analysis in local media, prominent indigenous Australian Stan Grant – also a well-respected worldwide media personality – drew a parallel earlier in the week between the current tensions surrounding Confederate statues in the United States, and the statue of Cook in Sydney, and said Cook’s statue emblazoned with the words “discovered this territory in 1770” perpetuates a “damaging myth”.
“A belief in the superiority of white Christendom that devastated indigenous peoples everywhere,” Grant said.
According to Cook’s journals on April 23, 1770, he first encountered indigenous people on the eastern coastline as he made his way on his ship, the HMS Endeavour, towards where he would eventually make landfall six days later at what he named Botany Bay.
Cook was later killed in Hawaii in 1779, after he made an attempt to kidnap, and ransom the King Kalani’opu’u – an attempt that failed, with Cook being savagely beaten to death, according to the records of his surviving crew.
As the direct evidence from Cook, and all scientific and otherwise evidence firmly refutes any notion that Cook discovered what is now known as Australia, many are calling for the statue to be torn down, along with those of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and Governor Arthur Phillip – who was the head of the First Fleet that arrived in Australia in 1788.
The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore referred the matter of the statues for advisement to the indigenous advisory panel of her council, and said that she will take their “advice on how Sydney can most effectively play a role in progressing equality and redress past injustices”.
“There have been too many people in mainstream Australia ready to make judgment on these issues without consulting indigenous communities, and whether well-meaning or not, it’s often done more harm than good,” Moore said.
However, there has been severe backlash on some fronts over any plans to tear down the statues, and prominent indigenous Australian leader, and former national president of the Australian Labor Party, Warren Mundine, said on Thursday that instead of tearing down statues – statues of indigenous Australians should be erected.
“All this nonsense about changing things – we cannot look back at history without modern minds otherwise we would have to tear down the pyramids because they were built by slaves,” Mundine said.
“In Australia the problem is an absence of memorials, we need more about our own people, our indigenous people.”