Churchill Statue To Receive Critical Plaque and First Nations Garden
By Nathan Bow
After lengthy negotiations, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has agreed to implement two suggestions offered by the ANU BIPOC Department that provide a critical representation of Winston Churchill.
In a Facebook post, the BIPOC Department said the plaque will be installed alongside the campus’s Churchill statue, as well as a “counter-monument”. The plaque is to contain critical details about Churchill, and the counter-monument, likely to be a garden, will seek to “illuminate the historical experience of First Nations communities, and recognise the traditional owners of the land”.
This development comes after a petition was launched in June 2020 by the BIPOC Department criticising the presence of a statue and bust of Winston Churchill on ANU’s Balmain Crescent. The petition labelled Churchill a “white supremacist” and responsible for “entrenching and exacerbating ill treatment (and worse) of populations in the ‘Colonies’”.
Upon reaching over 200 signatures, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust agreed to meet with representatives of the BIPOC and Indigenous Departments to discuss their perspectives on the issue. Despite being located on campus, the Churchill Memorial Trust is a separate body to ANU and owns both the statue and bust of Churchill.
In a comment to Observer, Adam Davey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Winston Churchill Trust, said the conversations between the Trust and the BIPOC and Indigenous Departments were “productive” and “helpful” with a two stage solution being agreed upon.
According to Davey, this will first include the installation of a plaque alongside the campus’s Churchill statue that refers to the “controversy and different perspectives” surrounding Churchill as a historical figure. A QR code will also be included to “encourage people to learn more about those different perspectives”.
Davey further stated that whilst the second stage is still in planning, it is likely to include the installation of an “Indigenous garden around the [Churchill] statue” to “recognise Indigenous, First Nations history”. He also raised the “possibility” of incorporating the garden into a larger First Nations walk around the campus.
The plaque is “pretty-close” to being installed, while the garden may take “some months” to materialise, Davey said. He explained the need to first consult with the local Elders of the land and ANU before the garden can be installed.
In addition, the BIPOC Department said the Memorial Trust has begun commissioning essays from “a diverse group of writers” that present “critical and nuanced reflections” on Churchill. They described this development as “a step forward towards creating more critical reflections and representations of the geographical, political and social history in Canberra and Australia”.
Current BIPOC Officer Chido Nyakuengama told Observer that she is “very proud of the changes we have been able to make” as it is “very rare that we get to see tangible results from our Anti-racist work”.
Graphics by Joseph Oh
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