Aboriginal people and colonial commemorations in so-called Australia

What is the place of Australia’s colonial memorials in today’s society? Do we remove, destroy or amend?
Monumental Disruptions investigates how these memorials have been viewed, and are viewed, by First Nations people to find a way forward.

In June 2020, on the heels of Australia’s James Cook anniversary commemorations and statue-toppling Black Lives Matter protests in the USA, dozens of police were sent to guard a statue of Cook in Hyde Park, Sydney.

Despite the police presence, two women spraypainted ‘sovereignty never ceded’ across the statue. Scenes like this are being repeated around the world as societies reassess memorials that no longer reflect today’s values.

Should they be removed, destroyed, or amended? Monumental Disruptions looks for answers. It investigates why commemorations were erected, and their meaning for Aboriginal people in Australia, both then and now, and it compares Australia’s experience with that overseas. Those who question colonial commemorations have been called ‘UnAustralian’; but, in Australia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities are working together to forge new ways to mark the past.

This timely book is essential reading for anyone interested in how a society commemorates and acknowledges its complex history.

Professor Bronwyn Carlson is an Aboriginal writer, researcher and academic from Dharawal Country in NSW. Bronwyn has received three Australian Research Council grants and is a past winner of the Stanner Award. She is the author of The Politics of Identity: Who Counts as Aboriginal Today? and is a well known commentator on the place of monuments in Australia. Bronwyn delivered the keynote ‘Breaking with the past, Dis(re)membering the monuments’ at the 2019 Cultural Studies Association of Australia conference and in 2020 authored The Conversation’s Friday essay ‘Taking a wrecking ball to monuments – contemporary art can ask what really needs tearing down’. She is founder and editor of the Journal of Global Indigeneity and convenor of The Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence, a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Sociology and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.