Please endeavour not to rewrite history, James Cook’s critics told

Please endeavour not to rewrite history, James Cook’s critics told, by Emily Ritchie.

Historians have warned against scrubbing white settlers from ­national recognition amid a campaign to change the names of two federal seats commemorating colonial figures and calls to re­define James Cook’s role in discovering Australia.

The debate over national symbols — sparked when two Melbourne councils voted to scrap Australia Day ceremonies — is set to intensify next week as activists plan campaigns to change the names of the federal electorates of Batman and McMillan if the Australian Electoral Commission decides on a redistribution.

In Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore yesterday referred to the city’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board a call from ABC indigenous editor Stan Grant to correct an inscription on a Hyde Park statue of Cook that says he “discovered this territory”. Grant’s call ignited a debate about how to reconcile Australia’s colonial and indigenous past.

Historian Keith Windschuttle, writing in The Australian today, criticised Grant’s call, arguing that the inscription was accurate because Cook was the first man to navigate the entire eastern coast of the Australian continent.

Gary Sturgess, chairman of Public Service Delivery at the Australia and New Zealand School of Management and an expert on Governor Arthur Phillip, who led the First Fleet in 1788, said while Grant made some sensible points, he did not believe plaques should be ­removed.

“I’m not in favour of tearing down statues, but we need to ­recontextualise statues or other public art,” he said. “We’ve had a very British interpretation up until now. For a lot of my life, we were assuming it was discovered by Cook. If that is offensive, I get that. Should we rework the plaque? I suspect we should leave the older one and put another alongside.” …

As debate raged in Sydney, a snap survey of 20 people in the CBD found only one person could correctly say who Cook was. Fourteen said he led the First Fleet. Cook was variously described as a ­“pirate’’, a sailor and an English explorer. …

In Victoria, critics of the push to rename Batman and McMillan described it as engaging in identity politics. … Melbourne’s “founding fath­er” John Batman has been in the sights of activists for allegedly dispossessing indigenous Australians by giving them bags of flour and blankets in exchange for 600,000 acres of land. …

Institute of Public Affairs resident historian Bella d’Abrera said: “Where does this end? When the left have pulled down every monument to the West, to Western civilisation?”

Well that didn’t take long. The new trend of removing statues of white men in the US is now coming to Australia, but as diminishing or hiding the role of prominent white men in Australia’s past. This is part of an effort to delegitimize Australia’s foundations, which makes it easier for SJWs to refashion society. It’s a brave new world!

George Orwell in 1984: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil