James Cook University has stood by its name as thousands of people sign a petition demanding a statue of the famous explorer in Cairns be demolished.
James Cook University has stood by its name as thousands of people sign a petition demanding a statue of the famous explorer in Cairns be demolished.

Thousands demand ‘Nazi salute’ Cook statue demolition

JAMES Cook University has stood by its name as thousands of people sign a petition calling for a statue of the famous explorer to be torn down in Cairns.

Brisbane woman Emma Hollingsworth has launched the #CaptainCrook e-petition on Change.org calling for the giant Captain James Cook on Sheridan St to be removed.

"Since 1972, the James Cook statue on Sheridan Street has stood as a symbol of colonialism and genocide," she said.

"It's a slap in the face to all indigenous people.

The Captain Cook statue on Sheridan St. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
The Captain Cook statue on Sheridan St. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

"For us it represents dispossession, forced removal, slavery, genocide, stolen land, and loss of culture- among many other things.

"I am calling on Cairns Regional Council and Cairns Mayor Mr Bob Manning to take action today and remove this statue.

"This would be a huge step forward in uniting the community and honouring our First Nation's people."

The statue is not owned by Cairns Regional Council and it is unlikely the local government would have the power to remove it for aesthetic, political or cultural reasons alone.

Tradies Bar publican Graham Johnston, who owns the statue, has declined to comment on the matter.

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Captain Cook statue on Sheridan St to be torn down. PICTURE: CHANGE.ORG
Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Captain Cook statue on Sheridan St to be torn down. PICTURE: CHANGE.ORG

The issue of the statue's future is known all the way up to the Prime Minister of Australia.

There has been talk about some of Mr Johnston's property - including the part that houses the statue - being required to allow the Cairns University Hospital development to go ahead.

The $60 million-plus project does not have any money and Mr Johnston has said he has no intention of selling the land.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison - a famous Captain Cook enthusiast - was asked in 2017 by the Cairns Post whether the statue should be saved in any potential hospital development on the site.

"I've seen quite a lot of Cook statues in my time, and I've never seen one quite like that," he said. 

"I would hope they could sort something out. 

"Hopefully it isn't too difficult."

Petitioners have made reference to the statue’s apparent “Nazi salute”. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Petitioners have made reference to the statue’s apparent “Nazi salute”. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

A rapidly growing number of signatories on the petition disagree with the PM.

"We can learn Australian history in books. There are no statues of Hitler in Germany yet we still were taught the horrible things he did without statues. Tear it down," wrote one supporter.

Another wrote: "Do I really need to explain why this Captain Cook doing what appears to be a Nazi salute needs to be torn down?"

The Black Lives Matter movement is taking aim at Captain Cook and white colonisation relics across Australia.

James Cook University has no intention of changing its name but has stressed its commitment to reconciliation and cultural respect.

James Cook University has had its name for 50 years. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
James Cook University has had its name for 50 years. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"As described in the University's reconciliation statement, James Cook University is committed to working towards the achievement of genuine and sustainable reconciliation between Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community," a JCU spokesman said.

"We believe that a commitment to the ongoing process of reconciliation is vital to the attainment of a better future for all Australians and all members of the JCU community. 

"Reconciliation promotes justice, recognition and healing. 

 

"It is about helping all Australians move forward, creating a better understanding of Australia's past and how it affects the lives of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

"JCU acknowledges that the impact of colonisation, public policies, racial discrimination and prejudice, have had a major effect on the lives of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Thousands marched through the Cairns CBD last week chanting and waving placards to protest black deaths in custody and support the Black Lives Matter movement. PICTURE: PETER CARRUTHERS
Thousands marched through the Cairns CBD last week chanting and waving placards to protest black deaths in custody and support the Black Lives Matter movement. PICTURE: PETER CARRUTHERS

"We recognise that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to face disadvantages as well as prejudice and racism.

"JCU acknowledges that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original inhabitants and traditional custodians of this continent and that they have unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land and waters."

The university got its name in 1970 to coincide with the bicentenary of Captain James Cook landing on the Australian continent.

Originally published as Thousands demand 'Nazi salute' Cook statue demolition



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