Maitland Brown Memorial
Public Art : Maitland
Brown Memorial (Also known as the Explorers'
Sculptor : © Pietro Giacomo Porcelli
Date Unveiled : The Maitland Brown Memorial
was unveiled in February 1913, by Lady Forrest (who happened to have been engaged to him once!) .
Location : In the Esplanade Reserve, across the
railway line from Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Description : A 3m high memorial consisting of a
granite pedestal, with four panels of bas reliefs on each side and a bronze bust of Maitland perched right on
top. The inscription and the panels on the memorial are steeped in controversy, leading to an addition plaque
being added in 1994 (more of that later). The panels in question depict Police Inspector J.K. Panter, Police
Constable W.H. Goldwyer and James R. Harding (who were killed by Aborigines in 1894). The other panels show
the scene where the men were killed and a portrait of G.J. Brockman (who donated the memorial and was also
responsible for the inscription). One panel shows a group of Aborigines being lead in single file with
shackles around their necks.
Background to Maitland Brown : Maitland Brown
was born in York, Western Australia, in 1843. His pioneering farming family
moved to Fremantle in 1852 when his father took a position as a magistrate. When Maitland was still
a teenager he left the big smoke and joined his brother on a farming property, Glengarry, at
Champion Bay (Geraldton). When he was eighteen, Maitland volunteered to join Frank Gregory's expedition into
the relatively unknown north-west of the State, looking for good pastoral land. It was during this
expedition that he made a name for himself. Ill equipped for the harsh environment, Maitland rode back to
base camp to gather water for the very thirsty explorers, thus saving their lives. As a thank you Gregory named
a river after him near Dampier. In 1865 Maitland once again headed into the State's north, this time to
find missing explorers, Panter, Harding and Goldwyer (La Grange expedition) who had set out from Roebuck Bay and
failed to returned. The bodies of the three men where discovered on the 3rd of April, 1865, they had been
speared. On his return he was appointed Justice of the Peace and then Resident Magistrate at Greenough (all at the ripe old age of 22). He then spent a good deal of his life in the
political arena (as a member of the legislative council) often opposing the Government of the time. His
political life was bumpy to say the least, resigning and threatening to resign numerous times. His most
controversial resignation came when his brother (Edith Cowan's
father) was found guilty of murdering his wife in a drunken rage (his brother was later hung for his
indescretion). Maitland, however was relected a few months later. In 1886 he resigned his seat on the
legislative council for the final time and took up the position of Resident Magistrate in Geraldton. Maitland
died in 1905 and was originally buried at Karrakatta Cemetery but six years later his remains were removed and
placed with those of the three speared explorers at East Perth Cemeteries .
Now Back to the Controversy : Lets just go back
in time to the La Grange Expedition because that is where all the trouble began. Three explorers Harding, Goldwyer
and Panter decided to explore the Roebuck area (near Broome) in 1864 in search of more pastroral
land. When the three failed to return after a few months, the government sent Maitland Brown to the rescue.
The search party sailed to De Grey River where they met up with an Aboriginal named, Dutchmanchum, who was to
act as an interpreter. The bodies of the explorers were soon discovered near Boola Boola after the search party
coversed with the local tribes. It seems they were killed 4 days into their journey. From all appearances it
looked as though the men had been clubbed and speared to death whilst they slept (though there are doubts over
the nature of Goldwyer's death). As the bodies of the explorers were being transported to the ship, two
of the Aboriginals who had led the search party to the scene made a run for it, but were shot and killed
by Tommy, one of the Aboriginal guides. Maitland then decided stay and search for the killers. Ok, now it
is here where the stories begin to differ. One account says that Maitland and his party were ambushed by local
Aboriginals during their search and were forced to open fire on them. Other accounts having Maitland and his
pose riding into an Aboriginal camp and opening fire. The incident became known as the La Grange Massacre. It was
reported that in the battle 6 Aboriginals died and 12 were badly wounded but that figure is in dispute (believed to
be much higher). No one in Maitland's party were killed or even injured, which makes you think an ambush
was highly unlikely. Did I happen to mention that the ship also had several Aboriginal suspects onboard but they
were released after the death of one who jumped overboard.
Controversy #2 : In 1988, after 76 years of the
memorial standing relatively ignored in the park, a group of Murdoch University academics decided it was high time
that the Aborigines who were killed at La Grange were also acknowledged on this highly bias memorial. It took a
further 6 years before the plaque was added. In 1995 the plaque was stolen and a new one added the following
Controversy #3 : In 1990 someone got themselves a
chisel and chinked off Brown's head as a protest against the glorification of a man who had a
reputation for mistreating Aborigines. A replacement bust was put in place until the head was secretly returned in
1993 (someone with a conscience ?).
Controversy #4 : Apart from the fact Lady Forrest was
engaged to Maitland (which I find utterly intriguing), Maitland Brown nor the incident have any
connection to Fremantle what-so-ever (well, unless you count the short time Maitland spent in Freo as
a little tyke). It was Brockman who insisted that it be erected in Fremantle because more people would see it
there than the intended location, Broome. But this controversy seems petty compared to the other three!
Thought to Ponder : Personally I can't
understand why the whole memorial focuses on the La Grange Massacre, surely they could have added some
of Maitland's other achievements. I wonder if he would have been proud or horrified at his
More Controversies to Poke a Stick at : Perth is
not alone in having controversial figures and memorials. Here are a few that might get your blood boiling or
at least add an interesting talking point to your next dinner party. Thomas Edward Watson Statue, Civil War
Monument, Pioneer Monument Fountain and the Ten Commandment Monument.