'More important issues than statues'

NORTH Queenslanders and Townsville's indigenous population are more concerned about jobs and alcohol abuse than what's written on a statue, Mayor Jenny Hill said.

Cr Hill took a dig at Sydney protesters' outrage over a Captain Cook statue, as she said no one raised concerns with her over the Robert Towns statue, despite the city founder's link to "blackbirding".

In Sydney, a statue of Captain James Cook has been at the centre of a debate on whether the plaque stating he discovered Australia should be changed to acknowledge indigenous Australians.

Cr Hill said she had not received any direct complaints about the Towns statue.

"It's easy for people in Sydney to talk about statues, but when you live in north Queensland there are far more important social issues than just statues," she said.

"I don't have the indigenous community here talking about that, they're talking about key social issues like domestic violence, alcohol abuse, alcohol foetal syndrome and employment."

Townsville’s Mayor says no one has raised concerns with her over the Robert Towns statue, despite the city founder’s link to “blackbirding”.
Townsville’s Mayor says no one has raised concerns with her over the Robert Towns statue, despite the city founder’s link to “blackbirding”. Fiona Harding

Some concerns had been raised over the statue of Robert Towns because of his involvement in "blackbirding", which was the kidnapping of islanders to work in sugarcane fields.

Labor's Herbert MP Cathy O'Toole said no one raised the issue with her and she did not support removing or changing the Robert Towns statue.

Instead she said there should be conversations about Australia's history - including atrocities committed against its indigenous people.

"It's really important that we have these conversations, but that it's respectful on both sides," she said.

"We need to acknowledge that atrocities were committed, we need to acknowledge that happened, but defacing statues already in existence isn't helpful."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week compared altering statues to Stalinism and said the solution was to build more statues to acknowledge our current understand of history, rather than remove old one ones.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was focused on the future and not engaging in "statue wars" with the Prime Minister.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it should be left up to the local communities how sensitivities around statues are handled.

Topics:  captain cook editors picks indigeneous affairs jenny hill statue

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