What is the place of Australia’s colonial memorials in today’s society? Do we remove, destroy or amend? Monumental Disruptions investigates how these memorials have been viewed, and are viewed, by First Nations people to find a way forward.
In June 2020, on the heels of Australia’s James Cook anniversary commemorations and statue-toppling Black Lives Matter protests in the USA, dozens of police were sent to guard a statue of Cook in Hyde Park, Sydney. Despite the police presence, two women spraypainted ‘sovereignty never ceded’ across the statue.
Scenes like this are being repeated around the world as societies reassess memorials that no longer reflect today’s values. Should they be removed, destroyed or amended? Monumental Disruptions looks for answers. It investigates why commemorations were erected, their meaning for Aboriginal people in Australia, both then and now, and it compares Australia’s experience with that overseas.
Those who question colonial commemorations have been called ‘UnAustralian’; but, in Australia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities are working together to forge new ways to mark the past. This timely book is essential reading for anyone interested in how a society commemorates and acknowledges its complex history.
paperback, 336pp, 2023
Read the SMH review here, by Raymond Evans associate professor, University of Queensland department of history.