Brisbane City Hall’s ‘colonialist icon’

WBT has looked into the tympanum above Brisbane City Hall in a previous article about how former Lord Mayor and Premier Campbell Newman failed to deliver on his promise to erect a statue of aboriginal warrior, Dundalli, in Post office square.

Here is a take from Alethea Beetson who produced a show for the Museum of Brisbane called Queen’s City. Alethea is a niece of Artie Beetson who captained the Queensland Rugby League team and who played for Australia. Her sentiments reflect those of the late Sam Watson who led Brisbane Blacks for so many years and who is sadly missed. This what Sam had to say at a Muslims Lives Matter rally in King George Square only a year ago.

I am generally a little bit reluctant to come into the City Square because of that sculpture above the entrance to city hall … because that records the exact history we have been talking about for a long, long time the way in which the Europeans invaded our sovereign lands and crushed the aboriginal people beneath their horses and oxen. That sculpture at some stage should have a jack hammer applied to it.

Alethea Beetson who is a Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi and Wiradjuri artist and producer had this to say about the tympanum about the entrance to Brisbane City Hall:

” To me the tympanum depicts white saviours in the middle with retreating Indigenous figures on the outside to represent “the progress of civilisation in the State of Queensland”, which is also the title of the tympanum. It is a very clear form of erasure that is very much still front and centre (along with other monuments) in so-called Brisbane.

Daphne Mayor and assistant working on a sculpture of the Queen on the BCC tympanum circa 1930s

“Given the current phase of the Black Lives Matter revolution and how that has led to the challenging (and toppling) of monuments world wide, this glorification of colonialism is of even greater significance.”

“My next phase of creative development later this year will examine this tympanum further so that we can work it into Queen’s City“.

Queen’s City is a retelling of South-East Queensland (post-contact), doing the opposite of what has been done to my community: the black history is true and the white history has been changed. Fictionalising place also allows me to tell the story in a way that can really examine colonialism and reclamation.” – see

Ian Curr
Editor WBT
23 October 2020