Colonial premier's statue toppled, spray-painted

A statue of a controversial colonial premier who mutilated the body of an Aboriginal man has been spray-painted and cut off at the ankles.

Surgeon William Crowther, who stole the head of Aboriginal man William Lanne in 1869, briefly served as premier of Tasmania in 1878.

Hobart City Council in 2022 voted to remove his statue and an appeal against the decision failed in a ruling delivered on Wednesday morning.

The statue of former Tasmanian premier William Crowther has been cut down by vandals.

Before the verdict was public, Crowther's statue was discovered on the ground next to the plinth that was spray-painted with "what goes around".

The statue was discovered with a cut to one leg on Tuesday.

Crowther was loaded on the back of a truck and driven away, while the scene was photographed by police who are investigating.

Hobart City Council CEO Michael Stretton condemned the "act of vandalism".

"We recognise the intense community sentiment surrounding this council asset, we firmly believe that vandalism and destruction are not acceptable responses," he said.

“The (council) will fully co-operate with police to identify and hold those responsible accountable."

Members of Tasmania's Aboriginal community have campaigned for years to have the statue taken down.

Council workers remove the statue of William Crowther in Hobart
The statue was removed from Franklin Square and will be put in storage.

"We would have loved to have seen it removed a long time ago," Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre campaign manager Nala Mansell said.

"We no longer have to have that reminder .... of the hurtful and degrading actions of people like William Crowther.

"Of course someone like that should not be celebrated."

Crowther removed the skull of Lanne from a morgue, and it is said to have ended up at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

The bronze statue of Crowther was erected in Franklin Square in 1889, four years after his death, in recognition of his service to the community.

The council voted for the statue to be placed in storage and replaced with temporary signage.

They have said the statue's plinth will remain and an interpretive piece telling the "complex" story of Crowther, Lanne and society at the time commissioned.

A statue of William Crowther at Franklin Square in Hobart
The bronze statue of Crowther was erected in Franklin Square in 1889, four years after his death.

"Crowther was certainly not the only person making transactions in this discredited field of 'racial science'," Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said in August.

"But he’s the only person with hands-on involvement that has a prominent celebratory statue in Hobart’s main civic square."

Former Hobart councillor Jeff Briscoe was one of three people to appeal the decision at the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

They argued against the statue's removal on seven grounds, including that the square's historical and cultural heritage would be affected.

In dismissing the appeal, the tribunal noted the removal would have a "positive resulting impact", and the reasons for it being taken down would be explained.

Liberal Deputy Premier Michael Ferguson said cutting down the statue was not the act of a civil society.

"Horrible things have happened in history but you don’t resolve history by having vandalism," he told reporters.

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