Friday, June 21, 2024

Hobart approves statue removal in Australian-first for Council

City of Hobart Council’s Planning Committee has approved the removal of the William Crowther statue from Franklin Square.

In a statement, the Council said the decision further advanced the city’s standing as a welcoming and inclusive city.

Once all conditions are met, the council-endorsed removal of the colonial statue would be the first of its kind in Australia, said Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds.

Tasmania’s Aboriginal community asked Council to consider the removal of this statue as an act of reconciliation and to tell a more truthful history of how Aboriginal people were treated in colonial Hobart, the Lord Mayor said.

“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.

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 palawa man, William Lanne. The incident was controversial at the time in Hobart.

In his letters to Sir William Flower (Conservator of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, England) in 1869, William Crowther writes about his role in the incident in some detail.

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. It was used to try to prove that Aboriginal people were of lower intelligence than Caucasians.

“Crowther was certainly not the only person making transactions in this discredited field of ‘racial science’,” Lord Mayor Reynolds said.

“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.

“The statue itself will be cared for and I hope reinterpreted in a new location.”

She said Council had followed an extensive, consultative process to reach this outcome.

“Those opposed to this decision refer to Council ‘tearing down’ the statue. But this is a deliberately emotive and inaccurate term used to evoke an image of illogical demolition.”

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

“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,” the Lord Mayor said.

There will now 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, Council will contract the services of a Material Conservator to establish the removal and storage protocol.

The fourth and final stage of the process will involve commissioning new interpretive elements to sit adjacent to the existing plinth and tell the complex story of Crowther, Lanne, the culture of the time of Lanne’s death, and the story of the removal of the bronze, Council said in a statement.  

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