NAIDOC Week celebrations in Albany were marred on Tuesday night when Albany’s famous Mokare statue was spray-painted white by vandals.
Members of the Noongar community have described the incident as a disgusting act of racism.
The statue at Alison Hartman Gardens on York Street was found defaced on Wednesday morning after NAIDOC Week storytelling sessions at the central city park on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Mokare, whose name means “man of peace”, originally had a statue erected as a tribute to the role he played in the peaceful co-existence of Noongars and early European settlers.
The statue was also covered in white paint in September 2007.
Albany Aboriginal Corporation chairman Lester Coyne, who was among dozens gathered around the vandalised statue on Wednesday afternoon, said the racist act was disappointing.
“I think the people who did this have failed miserably to say the least, they won’t succeed in stopping progress in this country or this town,” he said.
“They picked their time when it was the maximum exposure of Aboriginal progress and people; we share this town with everyone else and always have done.
“Albany probably would not have been discovered if it wasn’t for people like (Mokare), who showed (early settlers) the way and opened up the doorway for settlement. He was a pretty important individual.”
Glenda Williams, who was announced as City of Albany Noongar of the Year on Wednesday, said it was horrible the incident occurred during a week of cultural awareness.
“This is not the first time this has happened,” she said.
“When I look at this statue – my mother and (former mayor) (former mayor) Annette Knight unveiled this statue – it does mean something to me.
“It won’t ruin NAIDOC Week celebrations, we’re stronger than that, but we just don’t want this kind of thing to happen.”
Albany Noongar man Elvis Penny said it was very disappointing to see this sort of attitude still present in Albany.
“We work with white people and a lot of them are our mates, we’re supposed to be working together,” Mr Penny told the Extra. “NAIDOC Week is about sharing, if you’re interested; join us, otherwise stay away, there’s no need for this crap.”
Curtin University associate professor and Noongar man Ted Wilkes, who was visiting Albany to present at Southern Aboriginal Corporation as part of NAIDOC celebrations and said defacing the historic statue, installed in 1997, was “disgusting”.
He said he hoped those responsible for the vandalism would be caught by police and punished.