• The controversial Cook statue that towered over Cairns has been pulled down. (AAP/NITV)Source: AAP/NITV
After 50 years on Sheridan Street, the giant concrete statue has been pulled down, ready for its next destination.
Rachael Knowles

24 May 2022 - 4:37 PM  UPDATED 24 May 2022 - 4:48 PM

Since 1972, the almost 10-metre concrete statue of Captain James Cook has towered over Cairns. 

Today, it was pulled down.

The statue towered over Sheridan Street, near the northern entrance to the tropical city but was removed today by its new owner, demolition contractor Martin Anton.

Mr Anton purchased the statue in March from James Cook University (JCU).

The next steps

JCU purchased the property in 2021 with the intention to expand their Cairns campus, with the land where the statue stands planned to host a teaching hospital.

JCU told NITV News that the statue was “not compatible” with their plans so sold the statue for one dollar.

“Our focus now is on master planning for the Cairns Health and Innovation Precinct which will be developed on the site,” they said.

“Developing the Precinct is an important step towards Cairns Hospital achieving University Hospital status.

“JCU recognises there’s a range of opinions about the statue, some passionately held. We’ve sought an outcome that is respectful of those differences.”

Long-awaited leave

The statue has divided the community for years. In 2017, Invasion Day ralliers hung a sign reading 'Sorry' on the giant statue in protest, and in 2020 a petition to remove the statue accumulated over 19,000 signatures of support.

For some, its removal is a step in the right direction.

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Speaking to ABC Far North in December of last year, former North Queensland Land Council Chair Terry O’Shane said the removal of the statue would be a significant step towards reconciliation.

"Having a symbol of discovery which is not true is a sort of smack in the face for First Nations People of this country," he said.

"To maintain that symbol when the evidence is before us says something completely different, then what they are hanging onto is to a racist past.”

Where to now?

After its removal was cancelled twice due to wet weather, the statue was finally lifted by a crane onto a truck.

Tomorrow it will be transported to a property at Mount Molloy, where structural engineers will examine its condition. From there, its fate will be decided.

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