Remove Blackbirder Robert Towns’ Statue from the CBD of Townsville and put it in a museum.

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There have been calls for the removal of the Robert Towns Statue that stands near Ross Creek in the Townsville CBD since it was installed in 2005 but these pleas have been ignored.

We’re calling on Townsville City Council to act respectfully and in a genuinely reconciliatory way (in keeping with their TCC Reconciliation Action Plan) and remove this outdated statue from its current position and partner with the Museum of Tropical Queensland to have it placed there instead. In the museum it can be supported by a display that tells a more accurate and balanced story behind the colonisation and founding of Townsville.        

Within two months of this country being ‘claimed’ by Towns and John Melton Black (in November 1864) with the aid of a small group of settlers and a Native Police force, Towns brought in a boat load of ‘Kanaka labourers’—indentured slaves, mostly young men, taken from Pacific Islander nations. From January 1865, they were tasked with clearing the land and establishing farms alongside Towns’ boiling down works on the banks of Ross River. The local Aboriginal people, namely the ancestors of our Gurambilbarra Wulgurukaba and Bindal residents and neighbours (those who remained after being forced from their homelands and waterways), were also enslaved to build our roads and infrastructure; by 1870, a large permanent camp of local Aboriginal people safe at Mt Marlow (Pallarenda) “became a source of labour for the district”. Joseph Hann’s diaries state that Towns also “obtained children” from there to collect beche-de-mer off the coast. In hindsight, we can only question if these youngsters took on these tasks willingly, were paid, or even treated well.

It’s time to tell the truth, acknowledge the wrongs exacted by this city’s founders, and assist our community in the healing process.

Relocate the Blackbirder Robert Towns’ Statue from the CBD of Townsville and put it in the museum, with the true story of place, people, and history voiced around it. Let's tell the bigger story of our entangled past, so that all of us can embrace a shared aspiration of reconciliation, here and now.


Reference: Gibson-Wilde, Dorothy M.,Gateway to a Golden Land, Townsville to 1884, James Cook University 1984.

Image: Flikr denisbin 2012

Fellow petitioners: Dr Louise Boscacci and Dr James G Barrett.

Sculptor: Jane Hawkins 2005