FREMANTLE councillor Sam Wainwright says he’s the unwitting focus of local debate about what to do with statues and memorials to colonial leaders linked to atrocities against Aborigines.
Cr Wainwright published a story in the Socialist Alliance newsletter Green Left Weekly on Friday calling for offending statues to be tucked away in museums or given alternative signage. It was picked up by the Sunday Times and the West Australian, which urged him in an editorial to “leave the existing statues and street names alone”.
“It was a bit funny because I didn’t go out for a media opportunity because I’m not an expert on the history, but the story was bubbling along on the East Coast and the United States, and then Stan Grant came out with his piece on the Captain Cook statue,” Cr Wainwright said. The veteran indigenous journalist said it was ridiculous that Sydney’s statue of Captain James Cook claimed he’d “discovered” Australia when Aboriginal people had lived here for millennia. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the statue probably needed some additional signage, causing prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to describe his views as “Stalinist”.
Cr Wainwright says while he can understand some of his council colleagues would be unhappy that he’d put his head above the parapet following the Australia Day furore, his comments were made privately and he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to raise them.
“It’s an interesting one on how you approach things because you can’t have one size fits all.
“You can’t rip down every statue, you’re probably going to have to have a variety of ways of dealing with them; some you’d leave along, some you’d have additional signage.
“We need more interpretive signage that tells their story, but it would also be great when you cross the bridge for their to be bilingual signage saying it’s Derbal Yerrigan.
He says he’s actually more interested at the moment in focusing on council issues, given he’s up for election this year; as if to prove the point when the Chook caught up with him he was busy pounding the streets putting campaign flyers in letterboxes.
He’s keen to push for a pedestrian overpass at Stock Road, saying the asphalt cuts off Samson from the rest of Fremantle, preventing its residents from easily accessing facilities in Hilton, and Hiltonites from getting to Samson Park.
That could eventually be linked to a green corridor stretching from Samson right down through Lefroy Road into South Fremantle.
“We started discussions with Transperth about changing bus routes to make that happen,” he says.
by STEVE GRANT