The history pavers in Civic Square give snippets of Launceston's past through colonial times, enterprise and cultural development, but a Tasmanian Aboriginal leader believes they fail to convey the region's true bloody past.
The renovated square was officially opened last year complete with 40 history pavers, including one commemorating John Batman for "signing a treaty with the resident Aborigines".
Batman's legacy has been subject to review in recent years, including stripping his name from a federal electorate in Melbourne based on documented atrocities he carried out against Aborigines.
Aboriginal Land Council chair Michael Mansell said groups had made the City of Launceston aware of Batman's past, but the council proceeded to include him in the history installation without mentioning his crimes.
"You can't tell me they weren't aware of that, or even that the Batman electorate had its name changed. Are they so blind?" he said.
"Instead, Batman is presented as this wonderful person who signed a treaty with Aborigines. But in reality, he was a racist murderer."
In his own words, Batman described ordering men to fire upon a group of Aborigines in the foothills of Ben Lomond killing at least 10. He brought two wounded men with him but when they could not walk, he wrote he was "obliged to shoot them".
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Tasmanian Colonial Governor George Arthur observed that Batman "had much slaughter to account for".
The central theme of NAIDOC Week 2019 is "Voice. Treaty. Truth". Mr Mansell said, in the spirit of truth-telling, the council needed to add more pavers and alter some others to better represent the region's colonisation.
A 'visit' before a massacre
One paver makes reference to the violence directed against Tasmanian Aborigines, describing an event in 1825 when a mob of 200 was shot and physically abused by settlers despite being unarmed and non-threatening.
The title of the paver reads "Aborigines visit Launceston".
Mr Mansell said the use of the word "visit" implied the Aborigines were not the custodians of the land, a fact that had since been rectified by the Mabo decision long before the City of Launceston devised the history pavers.
"These were the owners of the land. How could they 'visit' their own land?" he said.
"It just shows how sanitised the presentation is here."
City of Launceston acting mayor Danny Gibson said the 1825 paver gave a reflection of the violence Aborigines experienced during colonisation.
Remembering the first circus, or a racist meeting?
One paver celebrates the performance of Australia's first circus, which was held in Launceston in December, 1847.
Two months earlier, a meeting was held at the Cornwall Hotel in Launceston where 150 to 200 men - largely settlers from the country - urged the government not to allow Aboriginal men at Wybalenna to be brought back to mainland Tasmania.
In one exchange described by The Examiner, Aborigines were described as "treacherous and insidious" of character. By way of compromise, they were brought back to Oyster Cove and imprisoned.
Similarly, issue was taken with the paver depicting Thomas Gale's oiled silk balloon ascent in 1878 - the year before Badger Island man James Beaton was refused treatment at a hospital and boarding house in Launceston, dying days later.
Mr Mansell said these events were a significant part of Launceston's history that demonstrated the level of racism of the time.
He did not propose removing the reference to the circus or Gale's balloon, but believed further pavers should be added to "better reflect" Aboriginal history.
"We don't want a parallel history, we just want it to be more factual. This timeline is all about European history," Mr Mansell said.
"This could have happened because they think it's controversial to hear the facts, the warts and all approach. They might think it's uncomfortable for them."
Adam Thompson, of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, presented five paver ideas for council to consider.
They included the first recorded killing of an Aborigine, carried out by a solider of Colonel William Paterson in 1804 at Low Head. Another was about having all Aborigines in the area in the Launceston Gaol by 1830, and another mentioned the forced relocation of Aborigines from Cape Barren Island in the 1950s.
None of the suggestions were included.
Council chose 'as broad a range' of subjects as possible
Cr Gibson said the history pavers were intended to tell a wide range of stories about the region's history, and defended the amount that made reference to Aboriginal history.
Of the 40 pavers, one recognises Aboriginal contact with Europeans in 1798, another speaks of the violence in 1825, and a third describes a meeting of Aboriginals at Trades Hall in 1971 where the "Aboriginal political movement was thus born".
As part of the process in developing the content of the pavers, the council consulted with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, QVMAG's Aboriginal Advisory Group and the Tasmanian Regional Aboriginal Communities Alliance.
Cr Gibson said all feedback was considered.
"The feedback we received from those groups helped determine the final subject selections and designs. While any number of subjects from the city's past could be explored in this way, the council selected as broad a range of subjects and dates as possible," he said.
Cr Gibson acknowledged the council's past failures in engaging with Aboriginal history.
"Historically, like other tiers of government, we have not always done well in terms of appropriately recognising Aboriginal history," he said.
"We are committed to understanding and sharing the stories of Tasmania, and we recognise that this is a shared journey. We will continue to work in good faith with individuals and groups in the community who wish to raise concerns with us, and in that regard our door is always open.
"There's no doubt as a community that we still have a way to go in terms of hearing and understanding the impact of past transgressions on our Aboriginal peoples."
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