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Captain Cook to return as council reinstates statue

A statue of Captain Cook sawn off at the ankles by vandals on the eve of Australia Day will be reinstated.

Melbourne's Port Phillip Council on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to repair and reinstate the monument vandalised at St Kilda's Jacka Boulevard in the early hours of January 25.

Photos posted to social media showed the body of the statue toppled on the grass with "The colony will fall" written in red paint on the stone plinth underneath where it usually stands.

Port Phillip Mayor Heather Cunsolo said a plan to reinstate the likeness of Cook in the same location would be settled in the coming weeks as the council investigated ways to reduce the chance of future vandalism, including adding context to the statue.

CAPTAIN COOK STATUE VANDALISED MELBOURNE
"The colony will fall" was spray-painted on the plinth of the Captain Cook statue in St Kilda. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

"We are united as a council in sending a very clear message to vandals that they do not dictate which cultural public assets are allowed to stand in our city," she said in a statement.

An effort led by councillor Robbie Nyaguy to consult the community on whether another location would be appropriate for the statue was voted down.

"We need to have a proper an open conversation about our history," Cr Nyaguy told Nine's Today Show.

"The only way we can move forward as a community is to have an open conversation ... about where we put statues like Captain Cook and the kind of context and information we put around them."

Cr Nyaguy said the decision to reinstate the statue without community consultation was undemocratic.

"If our response is to say, we're not going to have a conversation, we're not going to provide people with a democratic and legitimate way to answer these questions, then I fear the message we're sending is we're not going to be talking to you and go out there and do the wrong thing," he said.

CAPTAIN COOK STATUE VANDALISED
The Captain Cook statue was also doused with red paint by protesters in January 2022. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

The director of the University of Melbourne's Australian Centre Sarah Maddison labelled the council's "ignorant, disrespectful and stupid" decision to reinstate the statue without community consultation as a retrograde step.

"You can put your head in the sand and refuse to listen to that statement if you choose but it doesn't make the sentiment go away," Prof Maddison told AAP.

"It doesn't make the hurt and the anger go away.

"It's a real missed opportunity to not actually have that conversation, to help the wider population understand why a statue of James Cook is problematic."

Prof Maddison, who specialises in Indigenous-settler relations, said relocating memorials to museums and including context could help shape ongoing public discussion.

"These statues of problematic colonial figures are going to continue to be a focus of protest and resistance until their place in the public eye and in Australian history has been opened up for a proper conversation," she said.

Premier Jacinta Allan reiterated the state government was ready to work with the council to repair the statue.

"We're pleased it's been resolved," she told reporters at state parliament on Thursday.

The Queen Victoria memorial at Queen Victoria Gardens near the city was also vandalised with red paint on January 25.

The Cook statue was previously doused with red paint by protesters in January 2022 as an "Invasion Day" statement.