The mayor of the the Australian city of Hobart has come under fire over her comments about a planned Aboriginal memorial at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
Last week, the museum unveiled a proposal for a $2 billion waterfront park in memory of the atrocities committed against Tasmania’s indigenous population. In response, Hobart mayor Sue Hickey called for the Truth and Reconciliation Art Park not be a “guilt-ridden place,” saying that “it was a different era.”
Speaking to the Australian broadcaster ABC, Hickey explained that she would support the museum’s plans as long as there was consensus from the indigenous community.
“I think it very much has to something that the Aboriginals are on board with, but also that it’s tastefully done and it’s not a guilt-ridden place,” she said. “Whatever happened 200 years ago is really, really sad, but lots of atrocities have happened. People came away here in ships, torn away from their families for stealing a turnip.”
Hickey’s remarks provoked anger among the Aboriginal community in Tasmania and throughout Australia, and Aboriginal leaders have condemned her comments for trivializing the atrocities committed against the country’s indigenous population. Speaking to the Guardian, Heather Sculthorpe of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre said that the mayor should apologize for her “ill informed, outdated and provocative” statement.
“The mayor’s comments just highlight how badly this sort of thing is needed and how many people in Australian just don’t understand that you can’t just say that the past is the past—that won’t cut it anymore,” Sculthorpe said, adding that she supported the plans for the memorial park. “I think this does give an opportunity for the white community in Tasmania to come to terms with what they have done to us.”
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