Singleton's Caledonian Hotel has removed a photograph of the dead body of Aboriginal bushranger Joe Governor from its wall, after a complaint saying the photo was "racist" gained traction on social media.
Jimmy Kyle, a Thungutti musician from Victoria, wrote on his Facebook page that he left the Caledonian Hotel after seeing the image of the bushranger's body. He described the image as "disgusting, repugnant, insensitive and disrespectful".
The hotel's publican and an elder of the town have defended the presence of the photograph as "part of history".
The inquest into the bushranger's death took place at the pub in 1900 after he was shot near Singleton at Falbrook Creek by a white landowner. The photograph shows Mr Governor's body laid out on a billiards table in the hotel.
Mr Kyle, the frontman of punk outfit Chasing Ghosts, wrote on his Facebook page, "Paid for three nights .... walk in and see a picture of an Aboriginal man who my family is connected to up on the wall. He was shot in the back and killed and he's dead body was then spread out on display like he was an animal, like he was a trophy.
"How racist could this joint be, so callous and thoughtless at best."
Mr Kyle did not respond before the print deadline to the Newcastle Herald's request for further comment.
Brad Hill, the licensee of the hotel, said he had removed the photograph in response to the hundreds of comments on Mr Kyle's post.
"People from all over Australia were commenting on it," Mr Hill said.
He said he would not apologise for displaying the image. Its purpose had been misrepresented, he said.
"It's one small photo in a whole array of things that tell the story. There's a painting and old newspaper clippings about the inquest. There's a photo of the guy that allegedly shot him and a picture of him laid on a table in the hotel. As it was in those days.
"We aren't racist people. This photo has been there for 80 or 100 years. It was on the wall when we bough the hotel 30 years ago. We've never had a complaint about it."
Laurie Perry, elder and chief executive officer of the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation, said he understood the image had divided opinions online with some seeing it as offensive and others seeing it as a "point of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history at the time".
"I feel a bit for the publican who is running a business," Mr Perry said. "You can tell in he's voice that he still thinks he has done nothing wrong and he hasn't in my opinion.
"Australian history is an important part of our development as a country and we all need to look at it, touch it, feel it and educate ourselves more on this dark period of this point of time and then move forward as a nation of people embracing our culture.
He said another Wonnarua elder James Wilson Miller had documented the history of the Governor brothers' time in the region, in his book Koori: A will to win, including how Miller's grandmother had asked to clean the body of Joe Governor before it was buried on unconsecrated land, but was refused.
"A picture tells a thousand words, so I think this one does as well," Mr Perry said.
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