A statue of Captain James Cook, which had stood for a hundred years, was cut down, and a Queen Victoria monument was drenched in red paint in what appears to be a protest in Australia.
The vandalism incident took place in Melbourne just before Australia Day, and authorities are currently investigating.
Australia Day, celebrated on January 26, marks the arrival of the First Fleet from Britain at Sydney Cove in 1788, signifying the beginning of British colonization.
On the base of the Cook statue, vandals wrote “The colony will fall.” Authorities have reported that both memorials suffered damage in the early morning of Thursday due to “criminal damage.”
According to a statement by Victoria Police, “It is understood that the [Cook] statue was sawn off at the ankles. Several people were seen loitering in the area around the time of the incident.”
Erected in 1914, this monument stands as one of Australia’s earliest tributes to the British explorer, celebrating his journey from 1768 to 1771 when he mapped the eastern coastline of the continent.
This statue has been targeted by vandalism before, especially around January 26. In 2022, it was defaced with red paint, and in 2018, it was marked with “no pride” and had an Aboriginal flag placed beside it.
Jacinta Allan, the Premier of Victoria, condemned the defacement of the monuments, stating such actions have “no place in our community.”
“We’ll be working with the council to repair and reinstate the statue in St Kilda,” she added, referring to the suburb where it is located.
Efforts are also underway to clean the Queen Victoria memorial in the central part of the city.
Heather Cunsolo, Mayor of Port Phillip, expressed understanding of the “diverse views surrounding Australia Day” but stated she could not condone “the vandalism of a public asset where costs will ultimately be borne by ratepayers.”
She noted that a security guard had been arranged for the Cook statue on Thursday, but the vandalism occurred before their scheduled arrival.
Surveys indicate that about two-thirds of Australians are in favor of celebrating Australia Day on January 26.
However, many Indigenous Australians and supporters argue that it is inappropriate to celebrate on a day that symbolizes the theft of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and their separation from culture.
The number of people protesting “Invasion Day” has increased over the years, leading some to boycott the holiday altogether.