Nala Mansell with portrait of William Lanne

Hobart council to vote to determine if William Crowther statue to be removed, amid continuing debate on thick past

Every time Palawa woman Nala Mansell walks past the statue of former Tasmanian premier William Crowther, she says, it is “a reminder of the atrocities committed to William Lanne.”

However, Ms Mansell might not be walking past it for much longer, as Hobart City Council tonight considers a motion to remove the controversial statue from where it stands in Franklin Square.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this story contains references and images of deceased persons and content which may cause distress.

Crowther — a 19th-century naturalist, surgeon and politician — cut off and stole the skull of Aboriginal man William Lanne after he died in 1869.

Then Crowther replaced the skull with that of another man in an attempt to conceal the act.

As campaign coordinator for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Ms Mansell said it was upsetting that the statue of Crowther was still standing.

“It’s so hard to comprehend how people cannot understand the offensiveness of glorifying a man who is responsible for mutilating a human being simply because of their race,” she said.

“To Aboriginal people, William Lanne represents our struggles, our treatment, our dispossession and everything we fought for over 220 years.”

Dr Maddison said the removal of the Crowther statue could be the first of its kind in Australia. (Supplied: Sarah Maddison.)

University of Melbourne Australian Center director Sarah Maddison said the conversation in Australia around controversial monuments is a growing one.

“There’s certainly been ongoing pressure and campaigning to either remove or dismantle statues celebrating Australia’s most famous colonisers, [such as] Governor Macquarie in New South Wales.”

A growing movement

Campaigning has been boosted in recent years in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, in line with a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement.

It saw a series of Confederate statues taken down and, in England, the statue of a Bristol slaver was thrown into the bay.