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Hobart council vote to remove statue of William Crowther over claims it’s ‘racist’

The bitter battle in an Australian city over plans to remove the statue of a disgraced politician is over after council voted to remove it.

The statue of William Crowther, who removed the skull of Aboriginal William Lanne in 1869 and sent it to London nine years before he became the Prime Minister of Tasmania, will be demolished after years of debate and criticism.

The removal of the sculpture from Franklin Square, in Hobart’s CBD, will cost about $20,000, but there are also plans to move it elsewhere. The bronze statue, erected in 1889, has long been controversial in Hobart.

On Thursday evening, Hobart City Council members met and agreed that it would be replaced with interpretive material.

Indigenous activists praised the decision, labeling the statue “racist” and “barbaric.”

The municipality estimates it will cost another $50,000 to install a new monument.

The statue of William Crowther, who removed the skull of Aboriginal William Lanne in 1869 and sent it to London nine years before he became Prime Minister of Tasmania, will be demolished

The statue of William Crowther, who removed the skull of Aboriginal William Lanne in 1869 and sent it to London nine years before he became Prime Minister of Tasmania, will be demolished

William Lanne was considered the last 'full-blooded' Aboriginal when he died in 1869

William Lanne was considered the last ‘full-blooded’ Aboriginal when he died in 1869

A row has broken out over 'awake' plans to remove the statue of disgraced colonial Australian politician William Crowther, who mutilated the corpse of an Aboriginal man

A row has broken out over ‘awake’ plans to remove the statue of disgraced colonial Australian politician William Crowther, who mutilated the corpse of an Aboriginal man

In 2021, an artist painted his head and hands red as part of a re-imagining of the statue, symbolizing the body part Crowther removed and that he had “blood on his hands” from the mutilation.

The proposal was outlined in a Hobart City Council report that claimed too many white men were being commemorated in the city and more “relocations” would take place, the Australian reported.

Councilor Simon Behrakis attacked the plan as a “distraction with waking leftists about working to solve problems that actually affect Hobartians’ lives.”

‘It is important that we recognize all aspects of history, including the bad sides. That is not the same as sanitizing or censoring history,” he said in an earlier social media post about the statue.

Michael Mansell, chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, one of the most vocal critics of the statue of William Crowther, said the plan to move it elsewhere was “illogical”.

“If the reason you take down a statue is because what that person did was so offensive, you couldn’t put it in any other context because people will remember what that man stood for,” he said.

“Slicing up dead bodies just because they’re Aboriginals and treat them like fair game, (as) animals. No matter what good that person did, the magnitude of the atrocity is striking.”

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Mr Mansell said all other statues with a similar ‘terrible history’ should also be removed.

Lanne was considered Tasmania’s last ‘full-blooded’ Aboriginal man when he died of cholera and dysentery at the age of 34.

In a horrible piece of historyCrowther broke into the morgue where Lanne’s body lay on behalf of London’s Royal College of Surgeons.

Inside, beheaded Crowther (Lanne), cut open his face and peeled off the skin, removed his skull and replaced it with the skull of a white man stolen from another corpse in the morgue. Then he stitched it up again, trying to cover up his crime.’

The move was then already condemned.

Lanne’s brain was exhibited at an exhibition in London in 1912.

Crowther was known as a naturalist and surgeon, but his life was defined by his infamous actions in exhuming and mutilating bodies in the name of science.

Councilor Simon Behrakis attacked the plan as a 'distraction with waking leftists about working to solve problems that actually affect Hobartians' lives'

Councilor Simon Behrakis attacked the plan as a ‘distraction with waking leftists about working to solve problems that actually affect Hobartians’ lives’

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Crowther is said to have unearthed 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 physician at Hobart General Hospital.

In 2021, historian Reg Watson told the ABC that statues like Crowther’s could remain in place and their stories explained, whether they were good or bad.

‘For me, this is where politics comes in. The statue must be left alone and I’m afraid, which statue is next?’

“In the future, an appropriate interpretation plaque may be placed next to the statue, with the sad story told, but attacking statues is an American fashion.”

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