Community & Business

20 January, 2024

Community outraged after Pioneer’s memorial defaced

A MONUMENT honouring late pioneer John Atherton was defaced over the Christmas period, sparking outrage by the community, including his great-great-grandson Denis McKinley.

A memorial for pioneer John Atherton was defaced over the Christmas period.
A memorial for pioneer John Atherton was defaced over the Christmas period.

While visiting the memorial site, history enthusiast Michael Musumeci found the stone covered in graffiti, with the words “serial killer” written below John Atherton’s name. 

Horrified by what he saw, Mr Musumeci took a photo of the graffiti, sent it to Mr McKinley, and posted it to his Mareeba History Facebook page. 

“I was angry. What type of person among us would do that to a memorial for our founder,” Mr McKinley said. 

“This type of behaviour is not acceptable, and it takes all departments of government to come out and tell people they won’t tolerate it for something to happen about it. 

“It is demoralising to deface our history, and we can’t keep looking back at the taillights instead of looking forward to the headlights or else we will go nowhere – it was survival for both parties back then.”

Atherton was an explorer and cattleman who settled in Mareeba and has been acknowledged as the founder of Mareeba. The memorial stone was erected at his old homestead by Mareeba Shire Council in 1958. 

After seeing the damage to the monument Mr McKinley immediately sent emails and phone calls to the state and federal governments, demanding that something be done to condemn these types of incidents. 

Having grown up in Mareeba, Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch was heartbroken to see such damage done in his hometown. 

“We all know the contribution made by John Atherton, and he has been celebrated for a long time,” he said. 

“He (John Atherton) is a part of our modern history – whether ancient or modern history, it should be preserved.

“To see that kind of desecration is just heartbreaking and totally inappropriate. The fact that it happened is an absolute disgrace, and if that had happened to any other cultural site, the community would and should be outraged.

“If anyone has any idea who these mindless cretins are that are willing to desecrate the grave site, I encourage them to come forward and tell us.”

Any information about the incident should be reported to Police Link on 131 444.


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