Politics

Statues Of Two Men Linked To An Aboriginal Massacre Have Been Given New Plaques By Activists

The activists say the statues are "glorifying people who partook in ethnic cleansing"

John Septimus Roe statue plaque

The statues of two colonial men linked to an Aboriginal massacre have been targeted by a group of Perth artists, who replaced their plaques with new signs to more accurately reflect their legacies — and to challenge the way we memorialise colonial figures.

Earlier this year, during the peak of Australia’s Black Lives Matter protests, statues became a target for vandalism by protesters angry at the way we commemorate the “achievements” of historical figures while ignoring the oppression and violence they perpetrated. Police were even ordered to guard a statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney amidst fears protesters would attempt to tear it down.

But a group of art activists in Perth– known as The Statue Review — took a more subtle approach with the statues of Captain James Stirling and John Septimus Roe.

In 1834 Stirling and Roe were involved in the Pinjarra massacre, an attack on a Bindjareb Noongar camp which slaughtered dozens of men, women and children.

Activists from The Statue Review have made a new plaque for the statue of Captain James Stirling to reflect his role in an Aboriginal massacre. Source: The Statue Review

The Statue Review says the statues, which stand in Perth’s CBD, are “glorifying people who partook in ethnic cleansing”. The new plaques they’ve installed read, “He belongs in a museum. Not on our streets.”

In a statement The Statue Review said they believe they can find new and inclusive ways to remember Australian history while respecting and acknowledging Aboriginal and First Nations people.

“These statues adhere to the philosophy: ‘If you can’t see the problem, It doesn’t exist.’ These re-written plaques highlight the absurdity of White Australia’,” they said.

“Our city like others around the globe has ignored every cry to find a resolution. So we found one for them.”

“With the upcoming City of Perth Mayoral Elections — we’d like to hear what the candidates stance is on glorifying people who partook in ethnic cleansing on the streets of our capital city? And if they would be willing to relocate the statues to a museum if elected?”

What Happened At The Massacre?

On October 28 1834 Stirling (then WA’s governor) led a group of armed men (including Roe — then WA’s surveyor-general) to attack an Aboriginal settlement.

Stirling wrote in a letter that the “check” was needed after a white man was killed, and the aim was to weaken the group by inflicting “such acts of decisive severity as will appall them as people”.

Roe’s journal entry described finding a tribe of 70 to 80 people who were “picked off” as they hid in the bush and the river until “it was considered that the punishment of the tribe for the numerous murders it had committed were sufficiently exemplary”.

Numbers of people killed vary — while Stirling said around 15 to 20 people were shot dead, witnesses reported about 80 people were killed.

Junkee has reached out to the City of Perth for comment on the new plaques.