Vandalism and desecration of heritage monuments, memorials and statues appears to the latest fashion of the screaming Left. The whole concept however is not original; it’s just been adopted from the United States and advocates are simply jumping on the bandwagon. Commentators like Stan Grant aren’t very original in their thoughts. Simply put, he could see public mileage running with the issue, so away he went. What he and his like-minded comrades espouse is just a copy-cat action of their colleagues in the USA.
Sadly in Tasmania heritage monument vandalism began twenty three years ago since 1995. The Tasmanian Government either Liberal or Labor appear unwilling or simply are not interested in tackling the situation. They are, in my opinion, either politically attuned to what has gone on or are – as in the words of a headmaster of mine many years ago – “spineless jellyfish”.
To highlight my point we have to go back in history to fully understand what is meant.
In September 1803 a twenty three old man, Lieutenant John Bowen Royal Navy with 48 other souls, made up of administrators, military personnel, free settlers and convicts landed at a spot called Risdon Cove on the River Derwent four miles north of modern Hobart city. Bowen and his settlers laid the foundations of Tasmania, it being the first British settlement in the State. For many years until 1995 it was an historic park where all could visit and enjoy themselves perhaps with a barbecue.
The settlement at Risdon Cove was not a success for various reasons. Bowen, however, was not at fault. He settled at the spot on the orders of Governor Gidley Philip King who was in turn advised by George Bass who was impressed by the description given by another explorer, Captain John Hayes.
As a consequent, with further orders from Governor King, Lt-Colonel David Collins Royal Marines arrived with more settlers in February 1804 and abandoned the Risdon Cove settlement in favour of Sullivans Cove, now the site of Hobart city. Bowen returned to Sydney and subsequently to England.
The original historic site at Risdon was farmed for a hundred years and in February 1904 it was made into a public area being called Bowen Park for the next 90 odd years. A wonderful monument was unveiled by the Governor and Premier in memory of Bowen and the early settlers. The park – although not all times very successfully – was owned by the Tasmanian State Government and managed by what was then known as the National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Then in December 1995 all that changed. The Liberal Government under Premier Ray Groom gave this most significant historic site in Tasmania and certainly one of the most significant in Australia, over to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council (TALC) headed by radical aboriginal activist, Michael Mansell. It was one of 12 sites handed to the TALC with very favourable conditions. For instance the TALC does not pay any land rates to the local Clarence Council, unlike house holders and other land owners.
On the very date of hand over, the Bowen Monument was vandalised because it was a symbol of ‘”invasion”. The most shameful aspect of it all was that all Tasmanian Parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament were there at the time celebrating the hand over. All must have seen the desecration of the monument, but NOT ONE made a complaint. It was only when a nearby resident alerted me that it publicly became aware. No-one, however, was held responsible; there was no inquiry nor were there any concern expressed by our community and heritage leaders.
The once public park is now owned by the TALC and no one goes there, except members of the very well publicly funded TALC and the TAC (Tasmanian Aboriginal Council). The whole historic settlement has been neglected and is now in complete disrepair, this the most historic site in Tasmania. Fortunately we do have a record of the archaeological digs at Risdon Cove Historic site which was undertaken in 1978-1980 published in a rather large report, which is now as rare as hen’s teeth.
In 2003 at the 200th anniversary of Bowen’s landing the Tasmanian Government, under ex BLF Union man, Labor Premier Jim Bacon ignored completely that the historic event as though it never happened. . Even the sailing of a replica of one of the first vessels at Risdon Cove, “The Lady Nelson” was ordered not to sail near the area as it might ‘offend’ members of the TAC. Except for a private function, which I arranged, there was no heralding the first settlement nor any recognition of the 1803 settlement, which now is termed the site of the “European invasion” This is being rigorously and vigorously taught in Tasmanian schools including private under the anti British and racist curriculum called Gumnuts. This programme is where aboriginal activists are brought in from outside the education system lampoon our culture. All this under the eye of Liberal Education Minister, Jeremy Rockliff.
Over the years the Bowen monument has been repeatedly vandalised and this most important historic memorial is now in a dreadful state. Despite calls for its repair the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Heritage Commission does nothing. After all, we must not offend the tiny minority.
The whole situation deteriorated when the then Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Parks and Heritage Mr Scott Gadd ordered his man, Mr Vin Gerasimenok to declare (and to quote from the letter held in my files) “Risdon Cove is no longer an Historic Site”. This is madness. All road signs indicating where the Bowen Memorial was located were removed.
Unfortunately the vandalism towards our historic site continues. It began twenty two years ago in Tasmania with the seemingly consent of the Tasmanian Government, be they Liberal or Labor.