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Friday, June 18, 2021

Put her on a pedestal: Petition calls for more statues of women

Only one in 10 public statues in Canberra are of women, but that could soon change. Labor MLA Suzanne Orr presented a petition in the Legislative Assembly today calling for greater representation of historical women.

The petition wants the Assembly to commission a statue of a woman by 2023, and to name five new streets after women. It states that most public statues, streets, and suburbs in the ACT commemorate men.

“It is important for women and girls to have women role models present and celebrated in the public space after whom to model themselves, as they cannot be what they cannot see,” the petition reads.

Jasiri Australia, a young women’s political enterprise, started the petition, which more than 200 people have signed.

The petition will be referred to the Standing Committee on Economy and Gender and Economic Equality.

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Ms Orr noted that of 30 gendered sculptures listed on the artsACT website, 16 were of men – 10 historical figures, six abstract (fathers, sons, Icarus, cadets, football players).

But of the 11 sculptures of women, only one was of a historical figure. The rest were abstract: mythical serpent queens, sisters, dreaming in the nude, shopping, driving, stepping out of the house, embodying separation, civic pride, whimsy, or naïveté.

The Greens supported the petition. “Too often new statues in this city, like in most cities, have celebrated yet another old white man,” MLA Jo Clay said. “We have more than enough old white men on pedestals in this town. What we need is a bit more Yoniconography [womb symbolism].”

Fewer than half of Canberra streets were named after women, Ms Clay stated. Exceptions are Cook and Chisholm, where streets are named after notable Australian women, while those in Franklin, Richardson, and Gilmore honoured writers and journalists, particularly women.

Tara Cheyne, Minister for the Arts, will review the Public Art Guidelines to better embed inclusion and diversity.

The Greens also want the government to fund a ‘Women’s Walk’ of artwork by, for, and about women at West Basin precinct.

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