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Newcastle
Thursday, January 28, 2021

Backlash over motion to rename fountain

Councillor Allan Robinson has hit out at City of Newcastle’s decision to consider the process of renaming council buildings or features so they are “culturally appropriate”, labelling it “embarrassing”.

City of Newcastle councillors last night voted to investigate the move, while also supporting a motion to seek community consultation about renaming the Captain James Cook Memorial Fountain in Civic Park.

Part of this decision, includes the removal of two Captain James Cook memorial plaques attached to the Civic Park Fountain, which state: ‘To commemorate the Bi-Centenary of the Discovery of the East Coast of Australia 1770 – 1970.’

Cr Robinson acknowledged his own Indigenous background before slamming the move.

“I might be the only indigenous person on the council and, from all the dealings I have with people who are indigenous or Torres Strait Islander, I can’t believe we are even discussing taking Captain Cook’s name off a plaque, it’s pretty disappointing actually,” he said.

“I truly don’t hear that there’s upheaval over stuff like this. It’s embarrassing and very, very disappointing.

“At the end of the day to even have this brought up is not productive.”

Completed in 1966, Margel Hinder’s water sculpture was known simply as the ‘Civic Park Fountain’.

It was renamed ‘The Captain James Cook Memorial Fountain’ in 1970 by a decision of the then council in order to receive a grant from the Local Government Assistance Fund of the NSW Department of Local Government.

While the grant enabled council to do a second stage of works around the fountain, including the handrails on the stairs, it also meant that the fountain would have to serve as the city’s Captain Cook Memorial.

Cr John Mackenzie was in favour of removing the plaques, telling the Newcastle Weekly they were historically inaccurate.

“The idea that Captain Cook ‘discovered’ the east coast of Australia is clearly false and antiquated thinking,” he said.

“It also isn’t harmless – that language reflects the fiction of terra nullius that has been used to write Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out of Australian history for 250 years.

“Removing historically offensive monuments won’t bring about reconciliation, but celebrating them and being dishonest about what they mean will stall reconciliation permanently.”