A Captain Cook memorial statue in Melbourne has become the latest target of vandalism, adding fuel to the already heated debates surrounding Australia Day.
The incident, which occurred at approximately 3:30 am on Thursday, January 25 involved the statue being sawn off at the ankles, with the stone plinth underneath defaced with red spray paint reading “The colony will fall.”
Local authorities have launched an investigation into the criminal damage, with police urging anyone with information to come forward. The act has sparked outrage among the community, prompting discussions about the appropriate ways to express dissent in a democratic society.
Port Phillip Council Mayor Heather Cunsolo expressed her disappointment over the act of vandalism, acknowledging the complex perspectives surrounding Australia Day.
“We understand and acknowledge the complex and diverse views surrounding Australia Day,” she said in a statement.
“We can’t condone, however, the vandalism of a public asset where costs will be ultimately borne by ratepayers.”
Opposition Leader John Pesutto condemned the act, stating that vandalism is “totally unacceptable” and has no place in the community.
“There’s no place for acts of vandalism or any other violent acts against people or property in our community,” he said.
“We support the right of people to protest and demonstrate but it must always be done in a peaceful and respectful way.”
Photos of the vandalised statue circulated on social media, leading to a flurry of reactions.
Lock them up ! What a disgrace .
— Louse (@SharynJohnston) January 24, 2024
Blame the government for creating this division
— Michelle (@weak_get_eaten) January 24, 2024
Its hasn’t been vandalised its been destroyed…..this is now beyond a joke
— Mr T (@craig_troth) January 24, 2024
— Niall Kelly (@niall1405) January 24, 2024
This is ridiculous
— Michael Kenna (@MJKenna72) January 24, 2024
As Australia Day approaches, the incident adds fuel to an already intense debate between those who support the celebration and those who oppose it.
Debate intensified when retail giant Woolworths that they would not be offering specific Australia Day merchandise in 2024.
“While Australian flags are sold within BIG W all year round, we don’t have any additional themed merchandise available to purchase in-store in our Supermarkets or BIG W ahead of Australia Day,” a Woolworths Group spokesperson said at the time.
“There has been a gradual decline in demand for Australia Day merchandise from our stores over recent years. At the same time there’s been broader discussion about 26 January and what it means to different parts of the community.
“We know many people like to use this day as a time to get together and we offer a huge variety of products to help customers mark the day as they choose.
“Woolworths and BIG W celebrate the best of Australia every day, and we’re proud to support the farmers, producers, and suppliers who work with us.”
The announcement triggered a wave of reactions from the public, with sentiments ranging from frustration to outright anger across the social media landscape.