A statue of a disgraced 19th century Aussie politician, who mutilated an Aboriginal man’s dead body, will be torn down after a ‘woke’ council approved its removal.
The statue of former Tasmanian Premier William Crowther will be torn down after a heritage council determined the impacts on the ‘historic cultural significance’ of the area would be ‘acceptable’.
Born in the Netherlands, Crowther worked as a surgeon and businessman involved in colonial enterprises.
He became the 14th Premier of Tasmania from 1878 to 1879 and was commemorated with a 2.5-metre statue erected in Hobart’s Franklin Square four years after his death.
The bronze statue has long been contentious in Hobart as the disgraced premier is widely remembered for mutilating the body of a Tasmanian Aboriginal man.
Tasmanian Heritage Council approved the removal of the statue of former Premier William Crowther in Franklin Square, Hobart (pictured)
Crowther is widely remembered for mutilating the remains of Aboriginal man William Lanne (pictured) who was thought to be the state’s last ‘full-blooded’ Aboriginal when he died in 1869
In 1869, nine years before he became Tasmania’s premier, Crowther cut off the head of Aboriginal man William Lanne and sent his skull to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
A report given to council last year by local Aboriginal people expressed their pain about the continued presence of the statue.
Crowther (pictured) became the 14th Premier of Tasmania from 1878 to 1879 and was commemorated with a 2.5-metre statue four years after his death
During a historic meeting in August, Hobart City Council voted 7-4 to remove the statue of Crowther.
Tasmanian Heritage Council gave permission to remove the statue on Wednesday, as Franklin Square is on the heritage register, the Mercury reported.
Tasmanian Heritage Council chair Brett Torossi said the impacts of removing the statue are ‘acceptable’.
‘After careful deliberation, has determined by majority decision, that the impacts on the historic cultural significance of the Franklin Square that would result from removal the statue are acceptable,’ Mr Torossi said.
To minimise the impacts, the Heritage Council has imposed several conditions ‘relating to the removal and storage of the statue, and the conservation and maintenance of the plinth that remains’.
‘The conditions provide protections for the statue and the remaining heritage fabric of Franklin Square,’ Ms Torossi said.
Hobart City planning authority will now have to issue a permit for the statue’s removal, which will cost around $20,000.
In a council meeting last August, Alderman Marti Zucco voted against the removal and called for the public to be given a say in the next election, claiming the community and Aboriginal groups were not consulted.
Hobart City Council voted 7-4 to remove the statue last year and on August 16 the Tasmanian Heritage Council gave its permission
Alderman Simon Behrakis also voted no, claiming history needs to be preserved ‘warts and all’.
‘That statue didn’t go up celebrating the horrors and appalling acts committed,’ Mr Behrakis said.
‘It celebrated a man’s contribution to the state. Removing the statue does sanitise history. We don’t learn anything from history if it is hidden away.’
Councillor Jax Fox said the removal of the statue was a ‘small step to reconciliation’ and to not remove it is just ‘ridiculous’.
Councillor Dr Zelinda Sherlock supported the removal, claiming taking the statue down was challenging systemic racism.
‘Removing the statue will not take [history] away, in fact it might actually help us to talk about these various things,’ Cr Sherlock said.
‘The zeitgeist of our times demands that we talk about and we challenge systemic racism, we talk about and we challenge the structures of oppression, dispossession, colonialisation.
‘I think we must remember that sovereignty was never ceded and this was and always will be Aboriginal land.’
In 2021, an artist painted its head and hands red as part of a reimagining of the statue, symbolising the body part Crowther removed and that he had ‘blood on his hands’ over the mutilation.
In a gruesome piece of history, Crowther broke into the morgue where Lanne’s body lay, on behalf of London’s Royal College of Surgeons.
Inside, Crowther ‘decapitated (Lanne), sliced open his face and peeled off the skin, removing his skull and replacing it with the skull of a white man, stolen from another corpse in the morgue. He then stitched him back up, attempting to cover his crime.’
Hobart City planning authority will now have to issue a permit for the statue’s removal, which will cost around $20,000
Lanne’s brain was put on show in an exhibition in London in 1912.
Crowther was known as a naturalist and surgeon but his life was defined for his infamous actions in exhuming and mutilating bodies in the name of science.
Crowther is believed to have exhumed the remains of other Aboriginal Tasmanians including a seven-year-old girl named Mathinna.
After removing Lanne’s head, Crowther was suspended from his role as an honorary medical officer at Hobart General Hospital.
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