Genevieve Grieves has conducted her doctorate examining the monuments in the Melbourne CBD and reviewing the people commemorated. Almost all of the 520 monuments were dedicated to "dead, white men."
This discovery is a reflection of Australia's colonialist history, and demonstrates an alarming lack of acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians and their achievements.
Grieves states that "there aren't memorials to frontier conflicts in the 19th century, or Aboriginal heroes and resistance fighters... Melbourne's memorial landscape only represents colonial landscapes and heroes. Indigenous people are not present. Women aren't represented."
This follows the controversy surrounding Melbourne's statue of colonial "settler" John Batman, who played a large role in the murder of Aboriginal Tasmanians and carries a dark legacy of Indigenous mistreatment. There has been renewed debate surrounding the existence of monuments that valorise perpetrators of colonial violence and theft across the country, as seen in Victoria through place names and statues that acknowledge British colonists.
A local example is drive to change the electorate name, McMillian, which recognizes British colonist, Angus McMillan, who has a well-documented history of murder and participation in massacres of Indigenous people in the Gippsland region of Victoria.
Cbus Property will meet with the Melbourne City Council to decide the fate the Batman statue. However, Grieves has argued that, while it is inappropriate to commemorate these figures in Australian history, the statue should not just disappear, as this is akin to acting as if the killings and injustices never happened.
"If people have committed atrocious crimes against humanity, we have to consider if they should be commemorated," she said, "but we absolutely don't want to just cover up what has happened and pretend it didn't occur. Many Australians are ready for the truth."
Read more about Genevieve Grieves' work and the Batman monument here.