ActivePaper Archive Call to consult on Cook plaque’s future - The Age, 6/16/2020

Call to consult on Cook plaque’s future


The defaced James Cook memorial

Yarra Council will be asked to consult with the Aboriginal community on whether to keep a memorial to Captain James Cook in Edinburgh Gardens, which was defaced on Sunday.

Councillor Stephen Jolly will put the plaque up for debate in an amendment to a motion put forward by Greens councillor Amanda Stone, to be debated at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Cr Stone’s three-page motion, ‘Yarra Response to the Black Lives Matter movement’, was devised after consulting with advisory group Yana Ngarna last week. Her motion does not mention the statue, but asks council to acknowledge ongoing struggles and commit to action.

‘‘We really need to ask the broader community, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, because people have different views of things,’’ Cr Stone said yesterday.

‘‘This country is full of wellmeaning white people rushing to do things for Aboriginal people, without asking them.’’

Cr Jolly will put forward an amendment to specifically consult with the community on the Edinburgh Gardens statue.

He acknowledged it was a symbolic gesture, and that Yarra Council needed to work on bigger issues like housing for Aboriginal people.

‘‘We’re not going to just make a decision on behalf of Indigenous people,’’ he said.

Cr Jolly said the plaque could be moved to a local museum or historical society as ‘‘Captain Cook was a significant person in Australian history’’.

‘‘But to celebrate [him] is an entirely different thing.’’

Mayor Misha Coleman said she had a lot of feedback from the community as the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum.

‘‘What I’m trying to do is be as respectful and considered as possible, and not do anything knee-jerk that’s going to cause anyone more damage,’’ Cr Coleman said.

The motion from Cr Stone asks council to commit to ongoing consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Yarra, including ‘‘investigating public art and civil signage opportunities to maintain mainstream momentum and community engagement with the Black Lives Matter Movements’’.

The motion comes after the Captain Cook plaque, at the Rowe Street entrance to Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy North, was defaced on Sunday.

On the monument’s stone and on bitumen in front of it are the words ‘‘DESTROY WHITE SUPREMACY’’ and ‘‘REMOVE THIS’’.