A century-old Captain James Cook statue has been cut down and a Queen Victoria monument covered in red paint in an apparent protest in Australia.
The late-night vandalism occurred in Melbourne on the eve of Australia Day and is under police investigation.
The holiday on 26 January is the anniversary of the 1788 landing of Britain’s First Fleet at Sydney Cove and the start of the colonial era.
The vandals wrote “The colony will fall” on the Cook statue’s plinth.
Police said the “criminal damage” to both memorials happened in the early hours of Thursday.
“It is understood the [Cook] statue was sawn off at the ankles. Several people were seen loitering in the area around the time of the incident,” Victoria Police said in a statement.
The 1914 monument – one of the Australia’s oldest of the British explorer – commemorates his 1768-1771 voyage during which he charted the country’s east coast.
It has a history of being vandalised on or around 26 January. In 2022 it was splashed in red paint, while in 2018 it was graffitied with the words “no pride” and had an Aboriginal flag placed next to it.
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said the vandalism of both monuments had “no place in our community”.
“We’ll be working with council to repair and reinstate the statue in St Kilda,” she added, referring to the suburb where it is located.
Work is also under way to clean the Queen Victoria memorial in the city’s centre.
Port Phillip Mayor Heather Cunsolo said that while she understood the “diverse views surrounding Australia Day” she could not condone “the vandalism of a public asset where costs will be ultimately borne by ratepayers”.
She said her council had arranged for a security guard to protect the Cook statue on Thursday, but the incident occurred before they were scheduled to arrive.
Opinion polls show roughly two thirds of Australians support celebrating Australia Day on 26 January.
But many Indigenous Australians and others say it is wrong to celebrate a date which represents the theft of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and their dislocation from culture.
“Invasion Day” protests have grown in recent years and many people boycott the holiday.