Vandals have lashed out at the country's colonial heritage by defacing a statue of British explorer Captain Cook in Melbourne on the eve of Australia Day.
The well-known statue in Catani Gardens, St Kilda, has been covered in red paint with council workers brought in to clean the effigy and police launching an investigation over the criminal act.
Images taken of the statue on Wednesday show it nearly completely covered in red paint, ostensibly signifying blood.
It's not the first time the monument has been targeted in the lead up to January 26.
It was vandalised on January 25 in 2018 when protesters dumped pink paint on the head of the statue and scrawled the words: "No pride in genocide."
During demonstrations in Sydney showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter in 2020, a heavy police presence was deployed to protect a similar Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park.
Why does this keep happening?
Also known as Invasion Day or Survival Day in some sections of the community, the date of Australia Day has grown increasingly contentious in recent years with calls for the national celebration to be moved to a different day.
Critics say the current date – which marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove – amounts to a celebration of colonial conquest, which preceded the Frontier Wars and the genocide of local indigenous populations.
Posters calling for the abolition of Australia Day were also plastered on the statue, claiming the day is "built on the genocide of Aboriginal people".
The stunt caused a stir on social media with some people calling the vandals "ratbags" and others saying the attacks "have to stop".
A caller into Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday described seeing the scene.
"Captain Cook is covered in blood again, it's the second time they've done it," he said.
"They've really got him this year, from head to toe, the whole thing is covered in blood."
Detectives from the Port Phillip Crime Investigation Unit are investigating the incident, which reportedly took place overnight.
Meanwhile City of Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl, which encompasses St Kilda, said he was "a bit disappointed" by the latest vandalism.
"We had a very beautiful, respectful service with our traditional land owners this morning, and that was a fitting occasion I thought, and then to come down and see this, personally I was a bit disappointed," he told 3AW on Wednesday.
"It hasn’t been vandalised for the past few years... We had security details around the city last night, it was a very hot and busy night on the foreshore."
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