News State NSW News Vandals target statues and monuments in Sydney with ‘change the date’ message
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Vandals target statues and monuments in Sydney with ‘change the date’ message

Hyde Park
The vandalisation of prominent historical statues has also been an issue in the US. Photo: ABC News: Lily Mayers
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New South Wales Police are investigating the vandalisation of three statues, including one of Captain Cook, in Hyde Park as fierce public debate continues about whether the Australia Day date should be changed.

The words “change the date” and “no pride in genocide” were spray-painted on the Captain Cook statue with similar words scrawled on that of Major General Lachlan Macquarie, a prominent former NSW Governor and Queen Victoria.

A crime scene has been established and police are reviewing CCTV footage showing one person.

Acting Inspector Peter Northey said police learnt about the graffiti after receiving a phone call at about 7:00am on Saturday.

“Police responded straight away and have found a number of tags, and also graffiti relating to requests to change dates and other accusations,” he said.

“At this stage, police have been provided with CCTV showing one person.

“We’re currently very early in the investigation and still trying to identify who that person may be.”

The graffiti attack comes just days after indigenous broadcaster Stan Grant called for the inscription on the Cook statue – saying he “discovered” the territory in 1770 – be changed.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, weighing into the debate on Friday, said Grant was “dead wrong”.

Mr Turnbull said the vast majority of Australians would share his horror at the thought of “rewriting history” by editing the inscriptions on statues.

“All of those statues, all of those monuments, are part of our history and we should respect them and preserve them,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday.

“By all means, put up other monuments, put up other signs and sites that explain our history.”

In the past two weeks, two Melbourne councils voted to move celebrations and citizenship ceremonies from the traditional date of January 26.

A City of Sydney spokeswoman said the council was cleaning up graffiti that appeared overnight in Martin Place and Macquarie Street.

“Sites affected include the Archibald Memorial Fountain, ANZAC Memorial and statues including the Captain James Cook statue,” she told AAP.

“NSW Police have completed forensic work and City cleaning crews have commenced work to remove the unlawful graffiti.”

Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who is vehemently opposed to changing the date of Australia Day, damned the attack.

“This disgraceful extreme attack on our history &culture is shameful. Phillip& Cook were enlightened for their times,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Meanwhile, statues of historical figures have been a particularly divisive issue in America, where Confederate monuments have been the scene of protests in the past month.

—with AAP/ABC