Contested Memory in an Eponymous City: The Robert Towns Statue in Townsville, Australia

  • Rodney SullivanEmail author
  • Robin Sullivan
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


This chapter investigates the controversy surrounding the 2005 unveiling of the statue of Robert Towns in Townsville, Australia. It shows how, and why, memory and counter-memory occupied the statue of Townsville’s eponym, providing an opportunity for South Sea Islander and Indigenous perspectives on the past to confront white-settler-oriented official memory. Towns, the founder of the Pacific Islander labour trade, lodges in Australian South Sea Islander oral memory as a kidnapping and slavery symbol. Islander memory of Towns is transcultural and transnational, travelling across borders into Australian Indigenous memory and to Vanuatu, where Towns is also deployed as a unifying emblem of colonialist exploitation. The Towns statue retains its vitality for Islander commemorations and encourages the expansion of Townsville’s public memory beyond its white settler origins.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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