Captain Cook statue vandalized in Australia
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Captain Cook statue vandalized in Australia

A statue of British explorer Captain James Cook has been vandalized in Melbourne in an apparent protest on the eve of Australia Day.

A statue of British explorer Captain James Cook has been vandalized in Melbourne in an apparent protest on the eve of Australia Day.

The statue was found covered in pink paint at St. Kilda on Thursday, with the words "no pride" painted beneath his feet, along with the Aboriginal flag, the Guardian reported. 

A memorial to explorers Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills' near Melbourne zoo was also vandalized with green paint and the word "stolen" daubed on it.

The federal Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge called the vandalism a "disgrace". "These vandals are trashing our national heritage and should be prosecuted.

"I want Australia Day to be a great unifying day for our country. It has been for many decades now," Tudge told radio station 3AW. 

Police said they were investigating the incident.

Australia Day, the anniversary of British settlement, causes annual debate over indigenous sensitivities. It falls on January 26, the day in 1788 when Britain's First Fleet landed in Sydney Cove. 

Captain Cook had made it to Australia's east coast in 1770. Many indigenous Australians say Australia Day should be held on a different date, arguing the current celebration is "hurtful", the BBC reported.

Several protests were planned around the nation on Friday after similar events in recent years.

In August last year the words "change the date" and "no pride in genocide" were spray-painted on the statue of Cook in Sydney's Hyde Park. Similar words were also scrawled on a monument to Lachlan Macquarie, the fifth Governor of New South Wales. 

A statue of Queen Victoria was also targeted.

At the time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull likened the vandalism of such statues to Stalinist purges, warning the acts were part of "a deeply disturbing" campaign to "obliterate" Australia's history. 

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