Statue of divisive premier to fall after council vote
Ethan James – August 24, 2023
The statue of a former Tasmanian premier who desecrated the body of an Aboriginal man in the 1800s will be taken down after passing a final city council vote.
William Crowther, a prominent surgeon, broke into a Hobart morgue in 1869 and removed the skull of William Lanne and sent it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
A bronze statue of Crowther was erected in Hobart’s Franklin Square in 1889, four years after his death, in recognition of his service to the community.
Hobart City Council on Wednesday night passed a development application for the statue to be removed, placed in storage and replaced with temporary signage.
“Crowther was certainly not the only person making transactions in this discredited field of ‘racial science’,” Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said in a statement.
“But he’s the only person with hands-on involvement that has a prominent celebratory statue in Hobart’s main civic square.
“Deciding to relocate this statue doesn’t change history.
“The records, books, articles, dates and stories associated with the statue will all remain unchanged.”
The statue’s plinth will remain and an interpretive piece telling the “complex” story of Crowther, Lanne and society at the time will be commissioned.
In the meantime, temporary signage will be added to the site to explain the statue’s removal.
Councillor Louise Elliot, who voted against the removal, said the statue was artistically beautiful and a measure of the love people had for Crowther.
“The people who adored him paid for this statue with the clear intention it would remain in place as an enduring memorial for generations,” she told the council meeting.
“The cultural value of this statue is immense.
“It captures a snippet of our history.
“It provokes deeper thinking, including about how times and values have changed.”
Approval of the development application for the statue’s removal can be appealed through the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
An initial vote to remove the statue passed council 7-4 in August 2022.
Indigenous campaigners have pushed for years for it to be taken down, with a report to council noting Aboriginal people expressed pain about its continued presence.
Crowther’s statue was in 2021 painted red and draped in the Aboriginal flag in one of several pieces designed to provoke discussion about his story.
Crowther was suspended from his role as honorary medical officer at the Hobart General Hospital after charges stemming from the mutilation.
He was Tasmania’s 14th premier and served for about 10 months from December 1878.
Tasmania’s Heritage Council earlier this month ruled removal of the statue would have an “acceptable” level of impact on Franklin Square.
Ms Reynolds has previously said the statue would be conserved and potentially reinterpreted.
Lanne died aged 34 from cholera and dysentery.
He was described as a whaler with a joyful demeanour and love for the sea.