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HomeIssue 13New Stuart statue plaques get it wrong

New Stuart statue plaques get it wrong

p2132-Stuart-statue-1LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The Masonic erection on Stuart Terrace has finally been identified, with some plaques around the base.
The first plaque begins with an acronym of the slogan: “In The Name Of the Great Architect of the Universe.”
This surprised me, as I thought that there was some rule about the separation of church and state, perhaps our town council is made up of Masons?
I thought the council would be erecting statues and monuments in the name of the community of Alice Springs not in the name of some obscure religious group’s version of god.
The plaque goes on to say it is in honour of our greatest explorer, and names him as John McDouall Stuart. I can only imagine that the “our” refers only to the Masons, as I find it hard to imagine how the Alice Springs Town Council and community would think he was “our greatest explorer”.
He was not from here, he never came to Alice Springs, and he never explored or discovered any place or thing that was not already completely explored and well known to locals. In fact he and/or his men actually shot and killed members of one of our well-known and respected local families near Mt Hay as he was making his way through the MacDonnell ranges. This does not make him a great man in my book.
The second plaque does a good job of describing how inconsequential a man he was in a local context. It is headlined “John Stuart the Man” and goes on to say that he was born somewhere in Scotland died somewhere else in England and is buried there. So “the man” was born, died and was buried, fascinating!
The third plaque shows who is responsible for this erection, the Council and Masons etc.
The fourth plaque details the supposed exploits of this man and why he supposedly should be honoured. It is a very sad and misinformed version of history, not to mention how insulting it is to members of the local community whose families have been living here for countless generations.
It states that he was the first European to enter this country, which while true shows a complete lack of respect for the Arrernte peoples whose country he entered without permission and some of whose family members were killed by this arrogant man.
It says that he discovered Central Mt Stuart. This is laughable and insulting once again considering that family members of our local community had been happily living on and around this landmark for generations. What, they didn’t notice the mountain?
Most people from Alice Springs who have travelled up the track to Tenant Creek and beyond probably also deserve a statue because we have also discovered this mountain just like Stuart.
It also says that as a result of this bloke wandering onto Arrernte land that control of this place passed from the Commonwealth government to the South Australian Government. Sorry but the Commonwealth had no control over Central Australia at this time, they didn’t even know what was here.
At this time control of Central Australia was fully managed by the Arrernte people and other groups of people living here. But of course the existence of these people is completely ignored by this statue, which is really just a monument to the concept of Terra Nullius and the greed ignorance and arrogance of the Europeans that invaded and stole this country from the original inhabitants and rightful owners.
It is a great shame job in this time when everyone is talking about reconciliation for our council to erect this statue that denies the existence of Arrernte people and to place it in the heart of Arrernte country.
I call on the council to make recompense for the great insult they have dealt to the Arrernte people and other indigenous groups from our community by removing this statue, or in the very least recording the full and true history of Central Australia acknowledging the people whose land was invaded by this man and those that followed and paying for the installation of a similar monument that acknowledges and honours the original owners of this country.
Dan Murphy
Alice Springs
PHOTO: The statue before plaques had been fixed on the plinth.


  1. Good on you, Dan, for speaking up on this issue. This is just the latest episode in a continuing series of balls-ups by the Town Council, not to mention the waste of ratepayers’ monies. Being made of concrete, with a reinforced steel frame, and already showing signs of wear, I am concerned that the Council has undertaken responsibility for the statue’s on-going maintenance. I believe that perhaps the Town Council’s best course of action would be to cut its (or should I say “our”) losses and give the statue back to the Masons. Time will tell.

  2. if the dead horse referred to is the insult that Arrernte feel in the face of ongoing racism, casual or institutional. Then that horse is being flogged everyday. Are you a flogger or do you have some empathy?

  3. Dan Murphy writes this sentence: “It is a great shame job in this time when everyone is talking about reconciliation for our council to erect this statue that denies the existence of Arrernte people and to place it in the heart of Arrernte country”.
    Murphy reminds us of some of the facts of history.
    Murphy points out that the Central Australian history is not simplistic.
    Murphy says let’s lay out the full story and Mr Duell, shooting from the hip, reckons that telling facts is the same as flogging a dead horse.
    I am having a bit of trouble with all this.

  4. Some time ago I passed this statue, and it was one of those occasions I regretted not having a camera with me.
    For what I witnessed was a group of happy Aboriginal children standing on the plinth, hanging onto the legs and gun, posing for photos being taken by one of their parents (I presume), with other family members sitting on the lawn nearby. All of them were laughing and enjoying themselves. It was a moment that spoke volumes.
    Incidentally, I’m intrigued by the claim that Dan Murphy states is on one of the newly attached plaques: “It also says that as a result of this bloke wandering onto Arrernte land that control of this place passed from the Commonwealth government to the South Australian Government”. Does it actually say this? (I haven’t seen them yet).
    It would be quite a revision of history if this is the case, as the Commonwealth of Australia didn’t come into being until 1901.
    Still, it wouldn’t surprise me all that much; as my father pointed out quite some time ago, the particular model of rifle depicted with the Stuart statue actually didn’t exist at the time of his explorations.
    The whole business of this statue, while no doubt well intended, has proven to be an ill-advised sorry saga of farce. Another little episode to note in this town’s history.

  5. A story cannot be all things to all people. The statue represents a reasonably accurate story of the modern history of Alice Springs.
    It tells a story of European settlement. There are many sites around town which do have reference to Indigenous history.
    Any notion that this statue is having a negative effect on reconciliation really needs to consider the bigger issues such as school attendance, disempowering social welfare and widespread alcohol abuse.
    Stand in the middle of Stuart Park and look to the East and then the West – what is the real problem you see? The Memo club churning out alcohol to the town’s most disadvantaged (ultimately substantially funded through the taxpayer) or a statue?
    The statue does not deny the existence of Aboriginal people. Nor does it indict all Europeans for all time as thieves of land.
    Humans, like all species, do not stand still. Australia was always going to be colonised by a more modern force at some point; as was North America, South America, Africa, New Zealand.
    This is not based upon evil or wrongdoing but rather the human species pushing to assert itself at the top of the food chain. People should not feel guilty for the natural way of things from centuries past.
    As a civil society all we can do now is our best to help all people around us to live a decent and fulfilling life.
    A debate on a statue does little to either advance the common goals of a species or help the less fortunate live a decent life.

  6. @ Domenico: It certainly is a questionable use of ratepayer funds. From recollection I do not recall seeing the installation of this statue going out to tender.
    How much did Asbuild – I think it was – do this for the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC)? This of course is public information even if not readily available on the ASTC website.
    Whilst on the topic of transparency, I also did not see a tender on the ASTC site for the new structures on the Northern end of the Todd Mall (Again Asbuild I believe). How much was this little project costing us?

  7. I personally explored the same terrain on central highways and by-ways for 30 years of roving residency.
    Once again in Territorial absentia, I here in this publication, re-offer a balancing gift to the Masonic Lodge’s standing vision splendid.
    That being a marble bust of myself beside the existing statue riding Mr Ed the talking horse and gazing forward to the future as I take a selfie.

  8. What a negative and biased crock of rubbish Dan Murphy has contributed. I have not seen this statue or read its inscriptions, and also recognise Stuart was probably not the greatest explorer of the region.
    However, I do think Stuart deserves some credit for his contribution to the development of the area.
    I don’t see how erecting a statue can be interpreted as an insult to the Arrernte people.
    When Mr Murphy can prove to me the Arrernte people were the first to live in this area and explain the carvings at Ewaninga, I may reconsider.

  9. What rubbish by someone that obviously has no understanding of Stuart or the history of his expeditions, and someone who for cheap political reasons wants to push this unintelligent tirade.
    My guess is the author is not from here and should not pretend to talk for local people. The statue is simply recognition of the work Stuart did and when you put this into the context of his time, it was simply amazing.
    Good work by the local council to erect this wonderful piece of our shared history and to the Masons who helped make this a reality.
    I understand Stuart was a member of their fraternity. Interestingly he wrote in his diaries about a local man he met who exchanged hand gestures or something similar that was a recognised symbolic exchange of Freemasons.
    Makes you wonder about the ancient customs of what would be otherwise considered two very different cultures.

  10. You ignorant over educated [expletive deleted] who denigrate this memorial should leave town, preferably not via the highway named after this vilified and incorrectly labelled explorer.
    You ignorant and disgusting anti reconciliation deadbeats disgust we who do know the real facts of history.

  11. I have a lot of admiration for McDouall Stuart, came though the MacDonnells three times on his way north, via the Hugh, east branch now called Stuart’s Pass.
    Camped under Brinkley Bluff, climbed it … said it was the hardest hill he’d ever climbed.
    On reading this in his journal back in the 1980s I drove out there and had a sqizz … the little bugger must have climbed straight up from underneath the Bluff, instead of going round to the col where the Larapinta trail is today.
    My favourite section of the LT is from Standley Chasm, up to Reveal Saddle and along the ridge line to Brinkley Bluff, a hike well worth doing.
    I have no great objection to the statue, I think it could be better, what about him coming back on a litter dragged by a horse, that would give a pretty vivid depiction of how tough things were for him and his men.
    Whatever, he certainly deserves acknowledgement, even though he never came nearer the Alice than the Hugh, wasn’t much interested in the area except as a pass through the MacDonnells on his way north, determined to reach the coast to complete the north-south crossing.
    I can understand why people have differing opinions on the statue, but what motivates the anger and aggression of some of the comments? Says more about the person writing the comment than it does about the issue, surely?
    For those interested in history in The Centre in the early years, they would do well to start with Dick Kimber, local historian extraordinaire. His book “Man from Arltunga” and his speech at the NT Library “The end of the bad old days” published as a NT Library monograph. Strehlow’s “Journey to Horseshoe Bend” would make a good follow-up.


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