Bathurst's Evans statue: Should it stay or should it go?

UNCOMFORTABLE: Councillor Jess Jennings with the offending Evans Memorial on Kings Parade. Photo: PHIL BLATCH 	030416pbevans1
UNCOMFORTABLE: Councillor Jess Jennings with the offending Evans Memorial on Kings Parade. Photo: PHIL BLATCH 030416pbevans1

A PROMINENT Bathurst statue depicting an Aboriginal man kneeling at the foot of explorer and surveyor George William Evans belongs in a museum, not the town square, says one Bathurst councillor.

The Evans Memorial is one of three monuments – along with the War Memorial Carillon and Boer War Memorial – that comprise historic Kings Parade in the Bathurst CBD.

But Councillor Jess Jennings has now called for a rethink on the Evans statue, adding his voice to the protests of local Wiradyuri elders who say the statue demeans indigenous people.

Cr Jennings said he respected artist Gilbert Doble, who created the statue in 1920, but said it raised the question of what message was being sent to residents and visitors in 2016.

He said he would like to hear if members of Bathurst’s Aboriginal and broader community were offended by the memorial.

“How would visitors to town interpret that symbolism?” Cr Jennings asked.

“It’s a good historical marker of Bathurst’s history, but a black man at the foot of a white man – it’s hard not to perceive that as subservient. What sort of message are we sending our kids?

“You have to ask how white people would feel if that was reversed.”

Cr Jennings said it might not be necessary to remove the statue altogether, saying perhaps a plaque outlining the role Aboriginal people played in the crossing of the Blue Mountains and in the city’s history might counterbalance the statue.

“I’m certainly not saying it has to go, but it does make me feel uncomfortable,” Cr Jennings said.

“If it demeans Aboriginal people, then it demeans white people as well.”

Cr Jennings said the local Aboriginal community might prefer something like a monument to the Wiradyuri warrior Windradyne. 

“That’s not for me to say. It’s up to them how they want to be depicted,” he said. 

Cr Jennings raised the matter at a Bathurst Regional Council policy meeting last week.

 But the suggestion has already split the chamber, with Cr Bobby Bourke dismissing Cr Jennings’ concerns.

“We can’t go down that track. It’s been there since the early 1900s,” Cr Bourke said.

“If council got rid of the Evans Memorial there would be a revolution.

“This is just the wish of a minority group – what about the other 40,000 people who live here?

“I’ve spoken to the Lands Council and they feel it’s suitable. The Lands Council should be the group council deals with.”

Cr Bourke said he believed the statue was a good one. 

“To move something that has been sitting there for over 100 years is stupid,” he added. 

“What do we do in another 60 years – get rid of the Carillon because we don’t believe in war?

“It’s a no-brainer. As long as I am still on council that statue will be staying right where it is.

“If people are offended by it, look somewhere else.”

Wiradyuri elder Dinawan Dyirribang said he does find the Evans Memorial offensive. 

He said it showed someone demonstrating superiority over someone else.

“It’s not a good look for Bathurst as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

“It’s not appropriate and I think it has muddied Evans’ name and his achievements.”

Dinawan said he thought a different statue should be recast for the Evans Memorial that honours Evans in a different way.

“Something needs to replace it that leaves a good memory of the man in people’s minds,” he said.