Tue. May 28th, 2024

Bid to keep statue of skull-stealing premier fails hours after it was cut down

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May15,2024
Key Points
  • A statue of a former Tasmanian premier was toppled overnight, with police investigating who is responsible.
  • Before becoming premier, William Crowther stole the skull of an Aboriginal man from a morgue and sent it to London.
  • A decision by Hobart City council to remove and conserve the statue had been appealed.
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains the name and image of someone who has died.
An appeal to save a controversial colonial-era statue of a Tasmanian premier has failed — with the ruling coming just hours after the statue was toppled.
It emerged on Wednesday morning that the statue of William Crowther, which had stood in Franklin Square in the centre of Hobart since 1889, had been cut off at the ankles overnight.
The base that the statue had stood upon was spray painted with the words “what goes around” and “decolonize.”

Tasmania Police said it was investigating the vandalism.

A police officer inside barricades set up around the broken statue on the ground and the plinth it had been cut from.

Police have said they are investigating the damage caused to the statue. Source: SBS News

Crowther — a surgeon who was also the premier of Tasmania from 1878 to 1879 — stole the skull of Aboriginal man William Lanne from a morgue in the 1800s and sent it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

He was suspended from a position at the Hobart General Hospital as a result.
Crowther died in 1885 and the 2.5m tall bronze statue was erected four years later.
In 2022 a majority of the City of Hobart council.
While the statue was to be removed, there were plans for it to be conserved and the two-metre tall sandstone plinth it was on to be kept in place and interpretive signage installed.
However, the City had yet to remove the statue after three people — including at least one former city councillor, Jeff Briscoe — appealed the decision.
They appealed through the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TCAT) on several grounds, including “impact on historic cultural heritage significance under the Heritage Act”.

However, in its findings, released on Wednesday, the TCAT said “none of the grounds of appeal are made out,” and affirmed the City’s decision to grant a permit for the statue’s removal.

A woman holding a large photograph showing an Aboriginal man's face in front of a toppled statue.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s campaign manager, Nala Mansell, holding a portrait of William Lanne. She says she is glad the statue is no longer standing. Source: SBS News

City of Hobart mayor Anna Reynolds said the council was pleased over TCAT’s decision.

“This is a very important decision for Hobart’s commitment to truth-telling; telling the truth of our colonial history,” Reynolds said.
“This process has been a very rigorous one; a very careful one… and we’re very pleased that the tribunal has backed our decision.”
But she condemned the vandalism, saying the council was “incredibly disappointed” and that such acts “do not build bridges or goodwill”.
Speaking ahead of the TCAT decision on Wednesday, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s campaign manager Nala Mansell said: “Today is a great day for the memory of William Lanne, whose body was mutilated by this man.”

“Today the Aboriginal community celebrate that justice has been done.”

Mansell said while the centre had “applauded the Hobart City Council when they made the decision to remove the statue” progress had “been a very long drawn out process”.
“Every day of the Aboriginal community are faced with a reminder of not just how horrible the treatment of Aborigines used to be, but that white society still celebratse such horrible deeds committed against Aboriginal people,” she said.
City of Hobart councillor Louise Elliot said she applauded those who attempted to appeal the council’s decision but said she accepted TCAT’s judgement.
Elliot also condemned the vandalism, saying it showed “complete disrespect for other people’s heritage”.
She said she understood those against the removal of the statue were considering appealing TCAT’s decision through Tasmania’s Supreme Court.

SBS News contacted Briscoe for comment.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Bid to keep statue of skull-stealing premier fails hours after it was cut down”
  1. I believe that the removal of the statue was the right decision considering the controversial history of William Crowther. It’s important to acknowledge and address the problematic actions of historical figures to promote a more inclusive and respectful society.

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