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Statues of historical figures including Captain Cook to be demolished in Melbourne

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Controversial statues of Captain James Cook should be demolished unless the British explorer’s negative traits are clearly displayed alongside, an academic has claimed.

Public land expert David Gabriel-Jones said statues scattered across Australia of historical figures should be presented in a historical context.

Among them were Melbourne pioneers John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and Redmond Barry, the judge who sentenced Ned Kelly to death.

He suggested adding plaques to the monuments to highlight their negative qualities and give a full record of their actions – and if not, they will be removed.

Public land expert David Gabriel-Jones wondered why a statue of Captain Cook was once erected in St Kilda – and says the monument needs better context

Mr Gabriel-Jones wondered why a statue of Captain Cook was ever erected in St Kilda, telling the Herald Sun: ‘He never came to St Kilda or anywhere near it’.

“I wish there was a way to use that statue as a prelude to a discussion about all the complexities that come with Cook’s celebration,” he said.

Gabriel-Jones also expressed concern over a monument to early Australian pioneer, businessman and politician John Pascoe Fawkner.

He said that while Fawkner was considered a “great hero, and a person to be revered and celebrated,” he was also “badly anti-Chinese.” [and] a total racist.’

The public land expert argued that Fawkner Park should remain named after the pioneer, but that it should serve as a history lesson about the complexities associated with his legacy.

Mr Gabriel-Jones, founder and director of The Public Land Consultancy, said it wasn’t enough to put “a dozen words on a brass plaque.”

He also mentioned the statue in the forecourt of the State Library of Redmond Barry, a colonial judge best known for ordering Ned Kelly’s hanging.

“His mistakes, and there were many, had to do with sexism and women. But the fact is that he defended some Aboriginal people who were accused of murder,” he said.

The judge who ordered Ned Kelly's hanging has a statue outside the Victorian State Library - but has a history of sexism

The judge who ordered Ned Kelly’s hanging has a statue outside the Victorian State Library – but has a history of sexism

Gabriel-Jones said he supported leaving the statues as they are, but with special notices that give full context to the individual’s history.

“If it proves impossible, knock them down,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Captain Cook statue was vandalized for Australia Day celebrations, with the 7-meter-tall statue being sprayed in bright red paint.

The memorial in St Kilda in Melbourne’s southeast was covered in paint and plastered with protest signs.

People ask: ‘Why should we abolish Australia Day?’

It adds: ‘So-called Australia was built on the genocide of the Aborigines.’

The Captain Cook memorial in St Kilda, south east Melbourne, was splashed with red paint (pictured)

The Captain Cook memorial in St Kilda, south east Melbourne, was splashed with red paint (pictured)

Posters protesting Australia Day have also been stuck to the statue's pedestal and also splashed with the paint (pictured)

Posters protesting Australia Day have also been stuck to the statue’s pedestal and also splashed with the paint (pictured)

The vandals sprayed the statue all over, it stood about 5 meters high and covered it from head to toe, before also covering the plinth with paint.

Many of the protest signs were also covered by the attack.

Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl condemned the attack, adding: “It’s disappointing that people have chosen to do this.

‘We had a beautiful ceremony a few hundred meters from here.

“People have a right to express their opinion, but we hoped they had done it in a better way this morning.”

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