From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Monumental changes: history isn’t always written by the victors

Bronwyn Carlson and Terri Farrelly


Recent global protests against racism, largely led by the Black Lives Matter movement, have included heated debate about various monuments and statues, resulting in many being defaced and even removed. Across this continent now known as Australia, this inflamed long-held angst regarding colonial commemorations, particularly those honouring ‘discovery’ and perpetuating a myth of peaceful settlement. This continent is full of colonial commemorations that honour murderers, eugenicists, racists, thieves, slave traders and a host of other ‘assorted bastards’ who have profited from the dispossession and exploitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Daley 2017). Across the world, there is much discussion about how best to respond to problematic commemorations. Should they be removed and destroyed? Should they be relocated to a museum or statue park? Should they be amended and rectified in some way? Such debates often result in a stalemate; however, commemoration is a process, and the meaning of commemorations can change, often shifting from being a focus of reverence to a symbol of dissent. This article explores how some commemorations in Australia, despite being protected, have experienced a shift in their meaning and ultimately come to represent a history that was not intended by the ‘victors’.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Captain James Cook, colonial commemorations, monuments, statues, contested heritage



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