A NOTRE DAME philosophy tutor who wants James Stirling’s statue removed from near Perth council’s library on Hay Street is holding a demonstration today (Saturday October 28) at 1pm.
Monty Hill says Stirling’s involvement in the 1834 Pinjarra massacre makes him unworthy of a statue. He says many of the state’s early colonists were also guilty of atrocities and shouldn’t be glorified while the traditional owners and their achievements remain buried and largely unknown.
“Statues serve to glorify individuals or groups; Governor Stirling is responsible for atrocities and is not worthy of the many honours conferred on him,” says Mr Hill, noting Stirling Highway, Stirling Ranges, the City of Stirling and the native bluebell Stirlingia.
“Statues are not the source of all knowledge. We do not want to erase history, rather give a fairer representation to the Indigenous population and their role in Australia’s history.”
Mr Hill, who also works in Freo Hospital’s admin, says he became interested in the issue after hearing Aboriginal leaders talking at local demonstrations, a personal desire to look past Australia’s sanitised history and reading about the battle over Confederate statues in the United States – although he’s hoping to avoid a similar violent backlash.
Stirling was WA’s first Governor and Commander-in-Chief, after persuading the British government to establish the Swan River Colony.
He had his eye on prime agricultural land at Geographe Bay which had been granted to him by the government prior to his arrival, but was concerned attacks on Thomas Peel’s new settlement a little further north would hold up its development, so organised a punitive expedition. According to Stirling, when they came across the Murray River tribe, 15 men were killed as the colonists protected themselves, while other eyewitnesses say it was an unprovoked charge resulting in the deaths of up to 60 men, women and children.
Corina Abraham is a descendant of massacre survivor Calyute: “How can I move forward as a Biboolmirn (Noongyar) Yorga woman when the bloodstains are embedded in our country from my ancestors,” she poses.
Mr Hill says adding a plaque with an Aboriginal context, such as the one beside the Maitland Brown memorial in Fremantle, isn’t enough and the statue should go.
by WILSON BELL