Crowther Reinterpreted

Statue of William Crowther in Franklin Square

Statue of William Crowther in Franklin Square. Photo: City of Hobart

Project update

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Today TASCAT, the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, provided its determination on the appeal of Briscoe v Hobart City Council.

The appeal was rejected, which means the planning permit issued in August 2023 for the removal of the bronze component of the Crowther statue and installation of temporary signage has been upheld.

This decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court of Tasmania within the next 30 days. If no appeals are lodged within this period, the City of Hobart will proceed with the works identified within the permit.

The full detail of the determination can be read on the TASCAT website.

Additionally, very significant vandalism was discovered today in relation to the Crowther statue, with the bronze removed from the plinth and the sandstone plinth defaced. A police investigation ongoing and the bronze is now being stored in a safe place.

Given the events of today, there will be some impact on the way the planning permit is executed (if no appeal is forthcoming), but it is the City’s intention to fulfil all conditions of the permit, including six items set out by the Tasmanian Heritage Council relating to documentation, conservation and storage.

Temporary works have been undertaken to cover the plinth and the statue to ensure they are properly protected.

Previous updates

4 March 2024

The Planning Appeals hearing was heard at TASCAT last week. All of the evidence was presented and all cross examinations completed between 26 and 29 February. The length of cross examinations prompted a request for an extension of time. As a result, the hearing was adjourned, and will be reconvened in the second week of April. At this April session, the summations by each of the lawyers will be presented.

Once the summations have been heard by the commissioners for the appeal, the hearing will conclude and the commissioners will deliberate, taking into account all of the evidence presented and the cross examinations. This decision can often take some time – up to three months.

If the appeal is not successful, the planning permit that is currently in place for removal will be maintained and the City will progress through the required steps for removal of the bronze, working to each of the conditions specified by the Tasmanian Heritage Council. The conclusion of this process, would be the conclusion of Stage 3.

At this point, the project would progress to Stage 4, as detailed below.

We will provide a further update once the hearing has concluded, with information about an expected date for a decisions.


13 September 2023

Planning decision appealed.

While the Development Application for the removal of the Crowther bronze was passed and a Planning Permit received on Wednesday 23 August 2023, that decision has now been appealed.

This will move through the appeals process, with the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TasCAT). Information about TasCAT can be found on their website here:

There are three steps to this process:

  1. A short administrative hearing that will simply determine dates and the potential for mediation. This is due to occur in the next few weeks.
  2. Mediation. Date to be confirmed.
  3. The Appeal Hearing, which is unlikely to be scheduled until the end of the year/early next year and will take a few days.

Following this, the decision will be provided by TasCAT after a period of 6 weeks.

This step remains part of Stage 3 of the project. Should the grounds for appeal be overturned at the Tribunal Hearing and no further legal action taken, then the work will go ahead as planned and proposed in the development application.

Following this work, Stage 4 would begin as detailed below.

28 August 2023

A development application was approved at the 23 August 2023 Planning Committee meeting (8 votes for and 2 against) for the removal of the bronze component of the Crowther statue in Franklin Square.

Following the submission of a development application for removal of the bronze component of the Crowther Statue, the application was considered by Hobart City Council's Planning Committee under the relevant planning scheme and in relation to the relevant heritage legislation. A planning report was presented to committee, which included a Heritage Impact Assessment and drawings to reflect the proposal. After deputations, questions and presentations by most Councillors, the Elected Members present voted and the results were 8 votes in favour of the proposal and 2 votes against.

Following this decision, there is now a period of 14 days, during which it can be appealed.

If the decision is appealed, it will be considered by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If the decision is not appealed within this 14-day period, the City of Hobart will develop a plan with a material conservator to remove the bronze component of the statue and install temporary signage, as described in the development application.

This step forms part of Stage three of the project (refer below for explanation of all four stages).

The decision to remove the bronze component of the statue (subject to development approval) and reinterpret the memorial was made by Council in August 2022 following extensive community engagement and consultation, and in acknowledgement of City of Hobart's Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan.

If removal occurs, then following this event, the City will begin Stage four of the project.

As described below, Stage four involves commissioning new elements for the site, to sit adjacent to the existing plinth, telling the complex history of Crowther, Lanne, the culture of the 1860s and the story of why the removal took place.

3 July 2023

A development application has been submitted on behalf of the City of Hobart for the removal of the bronze component of the Crowther statue in Franklin Square.

A development application has been submitted for removal of the bronze component of the Crowther Statue. This will be assessed under the relevant planning scheme, and considered under relevant heritage legislation, as the Crowther statue sits within a heritage listed park – Franklin Square. A planning report, which includes a Heritage Impact Assessment and drawings to reflect the proposal, will be put forward for Planning Committee consideration for approval, once the proposal has gone through all of the assessment steps.

There will be a period of two weeks of advertisement, where members of the public can provide a representation for or against the proposal, which provides an opportunity to raise any concerns or provide support for the proposal against the requirements of the planning scheme.

This step forms part of Stage three of the project (refer below for explanation of stages).

The decision to remove the bronze component of the statue (subject to Development Approval) and reinterpret the memorial was made by Council in August 2022 following extensive community engagement and consultation, and in acknowledgement of City of Hobart's Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan.

6 March 2023

The City of Hobart is seeking submissions on an addendum to the Franklin Square Conservation Plan.

The City is taking the next step towards a development application for the removal of the bronze component from the William Crowther statue in Hobart's Franklin Square - Stage three of the project (refer below for explanation of stages).

The decision to remove the bronze component of the statue and reinterpret the memorial was made by Council in August 2022 following extensive community engagement and consultation, and in acknowledgement of City of Hobart's Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan.

Following preliminary advice received in the lead up to last years Council decision, the City has been working with a heritage expert to review the contemporary place of the statue in Franklin Square, with regard to the Conservation Plan, which was published over 15 years ago in 2007. This review and resulting draft addendum will be included in the planning application to be prepared for the removal of the bronze component of the statue.

The City of Hobart is now seeking community feedback on the prepared Franklin Square Conservation Plan draft addendum. 

About the project

Crowther Reinterpreted is a long running public art and community engagement project which responds to continued requests for action regarding the William Crowther statue in Franklin Square.

The project began in 2020, and will take place over four stages.

Stage one

Between late 2020 and the start of 2022, four temporary public art works were commissioned and installed on or beside the statue of William Crowther in Franklin Square. The four works were selected to present diverse perspectives and to acknowledge, question, provoke discussion or increase awareness about the story of Crowther and his treatment of the body of well-known Aboriginal leader William Lanne, after his death in the 1860s.

Members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community have expressed their discomfort with the existence of the William Crowther statue during previous consultation, and this project was developed in response for their desire for something to be done to recognise the story of what happened to William Lanne.

The City's Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan, sets out a commitment to visibility and truth telling across the city, with an action under this commitment being:

  • Undertake an interpretation project to tell the layered story of Crowther in Franklin Square. (Action 6)

This project responds directly to this commitment and action and is intended to allow multiple voices to comment on and discuss this contested element within the city.

Each artwork was in place for approximately two months, with the installations running one after the other throughout 2021. Throughout the installation period, an online survey was conducted using the City's Your Say page, to capture feedback and reflections on the project, its impact and what the City might do as a permanent response in the park.

Stage two

The second stage of this project looked at what a permanent response to the William Crowther statue might be. The City's Arts and Culture team worked with the engagement team, direct stakeholders and other relevant, interested parties to analyse the information captured by the project to date and develop a proposal for a permanent response. The proposal was put to Council in August 2022, and the following recommendation was approved by Council:


1. In recognition of the Council's 2020 Aboriginal Commitment and Action Plan and the submissions received in response to the Crowther Reinterpreted project, Council support the proposal for partial removal of the William Crowther statue from Franklin Square - the bronze component – to the City's Valuables Collection, pending further negotiations with local collecting institutions, for a permanent location for this element (Stage 3).

(i) This partial removal would be subject to receipt of planning approval by the Council and be paired with the instatement of temporary signage on the Franklin Square site, explaining the project.
(approved by Council 7 votes for and 4 votes against)

2. Subsequently, that officers develop a detailed proposal, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, for commissioning new, permanent, interpretative and/or sculptural elements to be installed beside the Crowther plinth (Stage 4). This would form the basis of a future report to the Council.
(approved unanimously by Council)

3. Following the completion of the Crowther Reinterpreted project, the Council support the development of a Monuments Policy to inform future additions or removals to the City's collection.
(approved unanimously by Council)

Anyone wishing to know more detail about the above proposal can read the full report in the Committee Meeting Agenda.

Stage three – Current stage

The third stage of the project will act on recommendation 1, as detailed above, developing a planning submission to remove the bronze component of the statue, and add temporary signage on the site. The planning submission will be submitted as a Development Application to Council for approval, prior to any work commencing.

Stage three FAQs

What is the focus of the Hobart City Council Planning Committee Meeting?

In this process, the Planning Committee meeting is focused entirely on the application and whether it meets the requirements of the planning scheme. The Hobart City Council (as owner of the land) considered all the broader issues, such as history, community sentiment etc., when it made its August 2022 decision to remove the Crowther statue. The Tasmanian Heritage Council and an independent Heritage assessor have both recommended approval of the removal development application.

Why did the Council originally vote to take down the statue of William Crowther?

After extensive community consultation and engagement, the Hobart City Council voted to remove the William Crowther statue in August 2022. Crowther was a colonial doctor, politician and briefly Tasmanian Premier who was suspended from his medical duties after an inquiry found he had mutilated the body of palawa man William Lanne by removing his head. While he was not the only person committing such crimes at the time, to have his statue prominent in Hobart's main civic square, Franklin Square, has been deeply troubling to Tasmania's Aboriginal community. This is not rewriting history; it is an acknowledgement that history evolves and is constantly being retold and explored. The Hobart City Council as the landowner of Franklin Square and asset owner of the statue voted to remove it. Then, just like any other developer, an application needed to go through the planning process where it will be voted on by the Hobart City Council Planning Committee. A separate application for removal was also approved by the independent Tasmanian Heritage Council in August, 2023.

What happens if the Hobart City Council Planning Committee decides to refuse the DA?

No matter the outcome of the Planning Committee meeting, there will be a 14-day holding period where an appeal can be lodged with the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Where will the Crowther be stored?

As per the development application documentation, the removal and storage of the Crowther bronze relies on the professional advice of a Material Conservator. As a result, the storage location and method of storage has not yet been confirmed. Should the DA be approved, the City of Hobart will contract the services of a Material Conservator to establish the removal and storage protocol. Details of the storage location must be provided to, and be to the satisfaction of, Heritage Tasmania's Works Manager, as required as a condition of DA Approval.

What is the City of Hobart's Valuables Collection and where is it?

The City's Valuables collection is distributed throughout the City's buildings, with many pieces displayed in cabinets, hallways and on walls. There is a catalogue list of artworks (with locations), maintained by the Cultural Development Officer in the City's Arts and Culture team. The valuables collection includes items gifted to the City by visiting dignitaries, artworks commissioned or purchased over time, and all of the Hobart Art Prize acquisitions. All items are valued for the purposes of insurance.

Will there be provision of information on the site into the future?

This process is entirely focused on planning, so these aspects aren't relevant to this process.

  1. If a DA is approved by the Planning Committee, there is another stage to this project - Stage four - which will involve commissioning new interpretive elements to sit adjacent to the existing plinth and tell the complex story of Crowther, Lanne, the culture of the time of Lanne's death, and the story of the removal of the bronze.
  2. This has been publicly described on the City's website.

What has been the community consultation on this project?

  1. Stage 1 engagement (running concurrent with public art works): The City of Hobart's initial Your Say Survey ran for 11 months (April 21 to Feb 22) alongside the public artworks.
  2. Stage 2: Engagement seeking options for a permanent response on the site. Informal consultation occurred after Feb 22 for several months with a series of one-on-one conversations. Then formal consultation occurred from May 22 to July 2022.
  3. Stage 3: Engagement: Addendum. A further period of public engagement occurred during March 2023 via Your Say for the proposed addendum to the Franklin Square Conservation Plan.
  4. General correspondence regarding the Crowther project has also been gathered and archived for this project, with responses provided wherever needed.

What is the progress of the Monuments Policy?

A draft memorials policy has been prepared and is currently under review, prior going to the Hobart City Council for approval. The new policy will be Council wide and encompass statues, plaques, memorial tree planting and furniture incorporating memorials.

Stage four

When stage three is complete, the final phase of the project will begin. This will involve commissioning interpretive elements for the site including content that presents the various, relevant stories of this statue, the people involved, the context of the time and the process by which the statue was removed. The final design for these elements will also be subject to planning approval (another Development Application, submitted to Council for approval, prior to any permanent work commencing on site).

The artworks

Work 1: Allan Mansell, Truth Telling, 2021. Mixed media.

Work 1 - More information

When was Allan's artwork in display?

Allan's artwork was the first to be displayed as part of the Crowther Interpretation project. Truth Telling was displayed in April – June 2021.

What do the different components of the Allan's artwork mean?

Each component of the work has been carefully considered to symbolise various aspects of the story of William Lanne and of William Crowther's actions against Lanne in the 1860s.

Allan's artwork temporarily transforms William Crowther into a memorial for William Lanne. His head and hands are coated in red, and he holds an Aboriginal flag in one hand, a saw in the other and has a bone at his feet. Allan has also covered up the text on the statue with an explanation of Crowther's actions against Lanne.

Following is from Allan's statement for the artwork:
"The representation of the red hands and red head is the decapitation of head and hands.
The flag represents the strength of the Aboriginal people of Lutriwita.
The bone represents Coorinna (the Tasmanian Tiger), again abused and driven out by the colonists. It calls the tiger to come collect the bone, take it away, bury it.... Come and collect your statue! Whoever!”

What materials is Allan's installation made of?

The red head is a flexible vinyl printed with an image of Lanne's face. The red hands are a rubberised red paint. The Aboriginal flag is fixed to an aluminium pole. The bone is representative and is actually a cow bone.

Will Allan's installation leave any damage to the statue?

All of the materials and processes have been selected to be easily removable. For example, the vinyl is the same as that used on car and bus wraps and is made with a low "tack" to ensure ease of removal and the rubberised paint has been selected for its ability to be peeled away cleanly at the end of the installation.

Work 2: Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman, The Lanney Pillar, 2021. Mixed media.

The film component of this work can be viewed on The Whaler's Tale page.

Work 2 - More information

How long will Greg and Roger's artwork be on display?

The Lanney Pillar is the second temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It will be displayed from June to August 2021 in Franklin Square.

What does the artwork mean?

Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman have created the artwork to share an "alternative narrative" about the story of William Crowther and William Lanne. Through presenting evocative imagery, historical records, and a film, they share what is known about the life of William Lanne; who he was, his relationship to Country and the facts of events that followed his death.

Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman's Artist Statement


The life of Aboriginal Tasmanian William Lanney [1835-1869] has been overshadowed by what happened to him after his death. Few of us know anything about his extraordinary life.

A statue of the man who stole his remains from the Hobart morgue is perhaps the only public icon that may lead us to Lanney's story. The statue of that man - William Crowther - erected by his colleagues with the blessing of the British Crown, now stands in Hobart's Franklin Square along with that of King Edward VII and Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania [1786 - 1847].

But nothing of Lanney's life or death is marked on Crowther's statue. You would have to dig into the archives or online to find out about the remarkable events of Lanney's life - a life which offers deep insights for us today into the turmoil C19th Van Diemen's Land - Tasmania - lutruwita.

William Lanney was one of the last Tasmanian Aboriginal children born on the traditional Country of their ancestors. In 1842 Lanney and his family were exiled by the Governor to Wybalenna on Flinders Island.

As a young man, Lanney joined the crews of the whaling ships sailing the Southern Ocean to Chile and beyond. Lanney's shipmates called him 'King Billy'. In 1867 he sailed to England to meet Queen Victoria and later in Hobart he met with the Duke of Edinburgh, advocating for his people.

Lanney was an independent man, respected by the people of Hobart Town who lined the streets for his funeral. When Dr. William Crowther snatched his body from the morgue, Lanney's dignity was also stolen - by a scoundrel whose statue still stands before you. Where is the memorial to Lanney's extraordinary life?

This Pillar offers the public an alternative narrative, seeking to reclaim the story of Lanney's life from under the cloak of the scoundrel Crowther up there on his bronze statue next door.

Images of Lanney's life on the rear of the Pillar tell of his connection to his country, his exile and his whaling life.

The Lanney Pillar has a 3 minute movie evocation of Lanney the countryman, his exile and whaling life, in Pillar viewer box.

The QR coded 12 minute film The Whaler's Tale that can be viewed online tells his extraordinary story and the absurd reasons Europeans like Crowther had for stealing Tasmanian Aboriginal bones for their English masters in London.

Why are there different spelling of Lanne and Lanney?

William Lanne was known by many names. There are multiple references in history to different spelling of William Lanne's surname including Lanne, Lanney and Lanny. His traditional name is not known, and he was given the European name of William when he was seven years old. Many Aboriginal names have multiple spelling due to errors in records and historical interpretations.

What materials is Roger and Greg's sculpture made of?

The sculpture is a free-standing timber structure that is fixed securely in the ground at its base. The artists have used timber, glass, paint, and print. The sculpture includes a solar-powered LED screen displaying a short film. A QR is visible on the sculpture's base and can be scanned to view the full version of the film online.

Will Roger and Greg's installation damage the statue of Crowther?

No. The sculpture will stand nearby to the statue of Crowther.

How can I view the full version of the film, The Whaler's Tale?

The sculpture includes a solar-powered LED screen displaying a short film played on a loop. The film is a 4-minute excerpt of a longer film created by the artists called The Whaler's Tale. The full version of the film can be viewed online by scanning the QR code displayed on the sculpture's base or at the end of the film. Alternatively, the film can be viewed on The Whaler's Tale page. The film will also be displayed on the City of Hobart's digital art platform, The Loop, for the duration of the installation period. Screening times can be viewed on The Loop website.

The Whaler's Tale

Does the film show real footage of William Lanney?

Film-maker, Roger Scholes, and academic, Greg Lehman, call the film, The Whaler's Tale, an 'evocation' of William Lanny's life. They have used a combination of historical records and images as well as film footage and music from contemporary sources and storytelling to create an artistic interpretation of what life might have been like for William Lanney. While the film includes some historical records of Lanney, including his portrait, the events of William Lanney's life took place in a time when film was not available. The footage that appears in the film is from Roger Scholes' career as a Tasmanian filmmaker and has been used to illustrate aspects of William Lanney's life.

Work 3: Julie Gough, BREATHING SPACE, 2021, with construction by Stuart Houghton. Timber, poster (digital file).

The downloadable component of this work can be viewed on the BREATHING SPACE page.

Work 3 - More information

How long will Julie's artwork be on display?

BREATHING SPACE is the third temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It will be displayed from September 1 to end of October 2021 in Franklin Square.

What does the artwork mean?

BREATHING SPACE is an intervention that disrupts the statue of Dr William Lodewyk Crowther within Franklin Square, and in doing so temporarily creates a break for those pained by its presence. This is Julie's artist statement for this project:

Encased, crated and covered, the statue of William Lodewyk Crowther and its laudatory plaque is finally, albeit temporarily, removed from view. The man was monstrous. His legacy is Aboriginal grieving, which still persists in his and his progenies wake; infamously efficient body-snatchers much celebrated by the citizens of Hobart. Let us use this time of relief, protected from his arrogant gaze, to realise we don't need to see the face of evil to know it is always there, haunting and testing the measure of society.

What materials is Julie's sculpture made of?

Julie's work is made of stained plywood. Metal straps are used to hold the plinth cover in place.

Will Julie' installation damage the statue of Crowther?

The work has been designed to simply sit in place around the existing statue, using protective material at any of the points where it touches the stone of the statue. The box will not actually touch the bronze of the statue, it will simply encase it.

Work 4: Jillian Mundy, Something Missing, 2021. Film; Viewing enclosure made from repurposed materials; television screen; blackboard paint; chalk.

The film component of this work can be viewed on the Something Missing page.

Work 4 - More information

How long will Jillian's work be on display?

Something Missing is the fourth temporary artwork in the Crowther Reinterpretation project. It will be displayed from 18 November 2021 until the middle of January 2022 in Franklin Square.

What does the artwork mean?

Jillian Mundy has collaborated with Troy Melville to make a film that is predominantly comprised of vox pop style interviews with users of Franklin Square who pass by the Crowther statue on a regular basis. The following is her artist statement about the work:

Immortalising individuals who have done terrible things is not good practice by most people's standards in 2021. Many colonial statues are offensive, some more than others. This is the case of the statue of Crowther in Franklin Square - a statue on a massive pedestal - yet details of his gory deeds are missing, just like much of lutruwita's (Tasmania's) history. Do people that go into that park know who he is? Do they care? Would they even notice if he is missing? Do they want the statue gone? Are they ashamed of missing history?

Something Missing explores answers to these questions from people who pass through the park every day and the work will continue, or perhaps hasten, the conversation about what we do with these chunks of metal.

What materials is the work made of?

With the exception of an added side panel, some water proofing and one can of paint, the viewing enclosure is made with repurposed materials - a former promotional recycling box from the Hobart Airport. It was repurposed with the assistance of the Karadi Men's Shed and is weighed down with used containers from Unpacked in Kingston.

Who were the people interviewed?

Jillian spoke with around 100 people who use the public spaces near the statue in vox pops style interviews. They were asked if they were happy to be filmed answering questions about the park. No interviews were prearranged, nor was anyone invited to the park. All conversations were voluntary and Jillian turned up a range of times throughout the day. While not all recorded footage was included, responses that differed from the film makers were gratefully received as part of the work.

Project FAQs

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following may contain references and images of deceased persons. This story and subsequent conversations may be upsetting as the details of our dark past are told.

Who is William Crowther?

William Crowther was a public figure in mid 19th century Hobart.

"William Lodewyk Crowther (1817–1885), surgeon, naturalist and parliamentarian, was born on 15 April 1817 at Haarlem, Holland, the elder child of Dr William Crowther (1788–1839) and his wife Sarah (1795–1863), daughter of George Pearson, sometime mayor of Macclesfield, Cheshire, England. William senior and his family migrated in the Cumberland (Captain Carns) and arrived in January 1825 at Hobart Town, where he set up practice."

"In 1860 he was appointed one of the four honorary medical officers at the Hobart General Hospital, but was suspended in March 1869 over charges of mutilating the body of William Lanney…. An inquiry showed that two mutilations had taken place, the first at the Colonial Hospital, the other at the cemetery the night of the burial. Drs Crowther and G. Stokell, resident medical officer at the hospital, were suspected of the first, the Royal Society of Tasmania of the second. A petition with forty-eight pages of closely packed signatures was sent to Governor (Sir) Charles Du Cane seeking annulment of Crowther's suspension, without success."

"Crowther was also active in public affairs. Although a foundation member of the Tasmanian Club, he regarded parliament as his real club. Under the banner of 'Retrenchment or Ruin' he was elected to the House of Assembly as a member for Hobart where he was most popular with the public. He resigned but in 1869–85 held the Hobart seat in the Legislative Council. In 1876–77 he was a minister without portfolio in Thomas Reibey's administration. Invited to form his own ministry in December 1878, he was premier until October 1879, the first medical practitioner to hold that office in Tasmania."

The plinth on the statue in Franklin Square, has the following inscription:

Erected by a grateful public, and sincere personal friends, to perpetuate the memory of long and zealous political and professional services rendered in this colony by William Lodewyk Crowther, F.R.C.S. England, sometime premier of Tasmania, born 15th April 1817, died 12th April 1885.

Source: The above extracts are from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Who is William Lanne?

Willliam Lanne (aka Lanney) was born around 1835 near the Coal River on the west coast of Tasmania. Lanne's family were thought to be the last Aboriginal family still living traditionally on the mainland of Tasmania. They were removed and sent to Wybalenna in 1842. In 1847, along with the other survivors of Wybalenna, Lanne was sent to putalina (Oyster Cove) and then to the Orphan School in Hobart from 1847–1851.

He was described as joyful and as having a love for the sea and the outdoors. While at Oyster Cove he started working on whaling ships – the Aladdin and the Runnymede. He was well known in the whaling community, especially for his great vision, and was said to have the 'best eyes in the straits'. He remained close to his people and would often return to visit putalina. In 1864 he made official complaints to the colony about the treatment and conditions of the Aboriginal people still living at the Oyster Cove station.

He became known as King Billy and it is for him that the native plant the 'King Billy Pine' is named. He died at the Dog and Partridge hotel (corner of Barrack and Goulburn streets in Hobart) on the 3 March 1869 at the age of 34 from a mix of cholera and dysentery. His funeral was held at St David's Church.

It is after his death that he was linked to William Crowther who became notorious for his acts in desecrating Lanne's body in the stealing of his skull. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community fought a long battle to have his skull returned and buried properly. This happened in 1991, over 120 years after Lanne's death.

Source: This account was compiled by the City's Community Development Officer for Aboriginal Projects, Nunami Sculthorpe-Green, based on text-based research and local knowledge.

History of Crowther and Lanne

What did William Crowther do to William Lanne's remains?

Crowther was an honorary medical officer at the Hobart General Hospital. But he was suspended in 1869 over charges of twice "mutilating the body of William Lanne", first at the Colonial Hospital and then at the cemetery on the night of the burial. Crowther removed Lanne's skull and sent it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London where it remained for over 120 years.

What happened to Lanne's skull?

Tasmanian Aboriginal people fought a long battle to have Lane's skull returned from the UK and buried in accordance with cultural practice. This happened in 1991, over 120 years after Lanne's death.


For more information about the Crowther Reinterpreted public art project, please contact the City of Hobart Public Art Team on 03 6238 2494 or