January 29, 2024

Council considers scrapping Captain Cook monument after repeated vandalism

By Cara Waters
January 29, 2024 — 4.48pm
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The City of Yarra is considering permanently removing a memorial to Captain Cook from Edinburgh Gardens and scrapping it from its collection after the memorial was repeatedly vandalised.

The granite monument at the entrance to Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy was broken from its base and spray-painted in red with the words “cook the colony” on Sunday.

The Captain Cook monument in North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens has been repeatedly vandalised, most recently on Sunday. This GIF shows vandalism in 2020 and the complete removal in 2024.Credit: Luis Ascui; Nine News

The vandalism follows a string of similar incidents around the city protesting over Australia Day, including the toppling of a Captain Cook statue in St Kilda.

A City of Yarra council officer recommended on Monday that the memorial be taken out of Edinburgh Gardens and formally removed from the council’s collection due to its poor condition and irreparable damage, and on the basis it has little or no significance to the park.

In an email to councillors obtained by The Age, the council officer advises that the graffiti had been initially cleaned and a specialist would probably be needed to remove the paint more thoroughly, but a break in the granite amounted to “serious structural damage”.


“Due to health and safety concerns, the memorial will be removed from location and placed in storage, and the remaining damaged base will be marked with safety cones and assessed for removal,” the council officer said.

The officer said the memorial had been damaged multiple times in recent years, including several acts of graffiti coinciding with Australia Day, theft of plaques from the structure, and significantly, structural damage on two previous occasions due to the monument being knocked over by vehicles.

“Due to the seriousness of the new damage, officers strongly recommend that the memorial be removed from location and that the object be deaccessioned from the collection in line with policy processes,” the email said. “Deaccessioning is the formal process of removing objects from a collection.”


The criteria for such removal under the council’s policy is that an object is of poor condition or has suffered irreparable damage, has no known provenance, or has a legal ownership other than that of the council, poses a risk to public safety that cannot be mitigated, is lost or stolen without possibility of recovery, or there are copies of items already in the collection.

The monument after being cleaned following vandalism in 2020.Credit: Nine News

The email said discussions had already been taking place about the formal removal of the memorial, and there had been support for this process before the latest vandalism.

The grounds for this support include the poor integrity of the object and that the Edinburgh Gardens conservation management plan identified the memorial as one of the elements in the park with “little or no significance”.

Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly said he was not surprised the monument had been repeatedly defaced.

“We were the first council in Australia to acknowledge the fact that for Indigenous people, maybe Australia Day isn’t a day of celebration,” he said. “Now in Yarra, some people celebrate Australia Day in the traditional way, and increasing numbers of people, especially young people, go to the Invasion Day march and don’t necessarily see it as a day of celebration.”

Jolly said the council should not spend any more money restoring the memorial and backed permanently removing it from the council’s collection.

“The council tells us they’ve got no money, and that’s why they’ve got to bring in bin taxes, they’ve got no money and that’s why they have to charge small businesses for bollards and they’ve got no money and that’s why they have to cut services,” he said.

All that is in place after the most recent vandalism is the memorial base with some traffic cones. Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui

“It would look a little bit hypocritical if they spent a whole heap of money on putting back a Captain Cook statue.”

A spokeswoman for the City of Yarra said council officers had removed the monument for the health and safety of the community after it was vandalised.

The Captain Cook monument in North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens has been repeatedly vandalised, most recently on Sunday. This photo shows vandalism in 2020.Credit: Penny Stephens

“Council will assess the damage to determine next steps and keep the community informed,” she said.

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Cara Waters is the city editor for The Age.Connect via Twitter, Facebook or email.


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