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Deputy mayor Griffin pushes for Jocko Graves’ Heritage inclusion

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Maitland City deputy mayor Mitchell Griffin admits it’s a passion project of his.

And, the Liberal councillor is hoping to install the Jocko Graves Statue as a Heritage Item under the Maitland Local Environment Plan.

He’s tabled a Notice of Motion to ensure the much-loved and prominent monument, located on the corner of High and Church streets in the CBD, remains safeguarded now and into the future.

Maitland City deputy mayor Mitchell Griffin with the Jocko Graves Statue, which has been a feature of High Street for about 150 years. Photo: Rod Thompson

Cr Griffin said it was important to preserve such an iconic piece of the city’s past.

“Jocko’s been part of the Maitland landscape for about 150 years,” he explained.

“So, it’s about time we officially recognise him.”

Featuring the heroic 12-year-old Jocko Graves, the statue has been an adored figure for generations of Maitland residents.

He’s received hugs and cuddles from countless people, dressed by servicemen and women, and even painted in sporting colours.

On several occasions, it’s been knocked over, prompting a fibreglass replica to be put in its place from 1971 to 1988.

The original has since been returned with the replica kept in storage at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

The statue was cast from a mould, which featured the likeness of Jocko Graves, a son of a free slave who fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

Sadly, he perished from cold and hard conditions, while holding on to the future first US President’s horses during the Battle of Trenton.

So touched by Jocko’s dedication, Washington had a statue of the young boy cast and placed on display at his home in Mount Vernon.

The Maitland effigy is believed to be based on that figurine.

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding over recent years around the story of Jocko, particularly as he was colloquially being known as ‘The Black Boy’ for much of the 20th century,” Cr Griffin said.

“I’m hoping by including him as a historical monument, and having his history displayed through interpretive signage, this will help correct it.

“People need to know the real story of this brave, heroic 12-year-old African American boy.

“He’s been around so long that he’s outlasted two World Wars, more than a dozen flood events, seven monarchs, 31 Prime Ministers and approximately 58 different mayors.

“You can’t think of Maitland without thinking of Jocko.”

Cr Griffin’s Notice of Motion was debated at the ordinary meeting of Maitland City Council on Tuesday 25 July.

If successful, it’ll see officers report back to council by late August with steps and recommendations required to have the monument included among the Heritage Items in the LEP.

Interpretive signage erected alongside the structure, to help educate the community and visitors about Jocko Graves’ background, is planned, too.

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