Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill speaks to media. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill speaks to media. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Little evidence Robert Towns involved in slave trade: Mayor

Mayor Jenny Hill has ruled out removing a statue of Townsville's founder from the city's centre, citing a lack of evidence he participated in slavery.

The Townsville Bulletin revealed Cr Hill does not support taking down the Robert Towns statue and said it sparked conversation in the community.

"I see no reason to remove the Robert Towns statue and I think people need to view the statue in the context of the Pioneers Walk," she said.

"Other Townsville pioneers honoured on the walk include John Melton Black, Joan Innes Reid and Eddie Mabo.

"They are all significant people that are part of Townsville's history and, good or bad, they have been involved in the creation of this community."

Statue of Robert Towns in Townsville. . Pic CameronLaird
Statue of Robert Towns in Townsville. . Pic CameronLaird

Cr Hill said there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations Towns was a black birder and slave trader.

"In response to feedback from the community, a previous council engaged Dr Kett Kennedy, a then professor of history at James Cook University, to undertake research on Robert Towns," she said.

"Dr Kennedy's research could not conclusively prove that Mr Towns was knowingly involved in some of the activities that he is alleged to have been involved in."

It comes as monuments to Captain James Cook have been defaced by vandals around the country.

In Melbourne's inner north, white paint was smeared over Cook's face and the word SHAME written below it.

In Sydney's east the 110-year-old sandstone statue was graffitied with black spray paint.

The term "blackbirding" describes the practice of coercing people to work as indentured labourers, often through deception or force.

More than 60,000 South Sea Islanders were kidnapped, tricked or coerced to Australia to work mainly on the sugar cane fields.

People of modern-day Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Kiribati were among those brought.



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