A historical statue of William Crowther, a politician who led Tasmania in the late 1870s, will be removed, as part of what the current mayor called "the process of truthtelling" about the island state.

A statue
A statue "erected by a grateful public" of William Crowther in Franklin Square, Hobart. (StAnselm / Wikimedia Commons)

Politicians at Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania, Australia, voted on August 15, 2022 to take down a 132-year-old statue. 

The historical statue glorified a politician who stole the skull of a man thought to be the last Aboriginal from a local morgue. 

Hobart's Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said it was "part of the process of truthtelling" about the history of Tasmania, a state where the Aboriginal population was decimated by disease and brutality after white settlement.

The city council voted 7-4 in favour of removing the statue of William Crowther, who was the leader of Tasmania in the late 1870s.

“(This) does not change history. The records, the books, the articles, the stories all remain unchanged,” Reynolds said

“We don’t want to celebrate a time in our history when scientists and doctors wanted to prove theories of European superiority (and) wanted to rank people by their race.

“It was an appalling tradition.”

A surgeon by trade, Crowther in 1869 mutilated the body of a deceased Aboriginal man, William "King Billy" Lanne, removing his skull and replacing it with that of another person.

The theft came amid a tussle between two scientific societies, both of which wanted to claim the right to study the remains of Lanne.

Crowther's actions outraged many, and sparked new laws requiring all medical experiments to have prior consent from the deceased or their family - yet within a decade, the controversial surgeon was elected state premier.

Reynolds said the decision to remove Crowther's statue was about choosing to not give prominence "to this person, who is a symbol of racism and this science of racial ranking".

The lord mayor said a new public artwork would be commissioned to replace the statue.

The statue's removal comes in the wake of the Tasmanian Museum apologising to the state's Aboriginal people for its role in the exhumation and desecration of Indigenous remains, largely in the service of discredited racial sciences.

The museum until 1947 publicly displayed the remains of Lanne's wife, Truganini, expressly against her final wishes.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies