Police are investigating after statues of Queen Victoria, Captain Cook and Governor Lachlan Macquarie were vandalised in Sydney's Hyde Park on Saturday morning.
Images posted on social media show the historic statues defaced with graffiti phrases such as "change the date", "no pride in genocide" and "bow down". A bag was also placed over the head of Governor Macquarie.
On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned the "cowardly criminal act" adding that he hoped "police swiftly find those responsible and bring them to justice".
"This is what Stalin did," he said in a statement.
"When he fell out with his henchmen he didn't just execute them, they were removed from all official photographs -- they became non-persons, banished not just from life's mortal coil but from memory and history itself.
"Tearing down or defacing statues of our colonial era explorers and governors is not much better than that."
The statues have been vandalised just days after Indigenous broadcaster Stan Grant called for the inscription on the Cook statue in Hyde Park to be changed.
"The inscription that Cook "Discovered this territory in 1770" maintains a damaging myth, a belief in the superiority of white Christendom that devastated Indigenous peoples everywhere," he wrote for the ABC.
However, Turnbull has said that he knew "as a schoolboy" that "Cook didn't "discover" Australia anymore than Columbus "discovered" America or Marco Polo "discovered" China."
"Old histories should not be burned, anymore than old statues should be torn down. Rather they should be challenged and complemented by new histories, fresh evidence and modern monuments," he said.
"Our history is a rich and complex one. Overwhelmingly it is one of courage, hard work, enterprise and success -- we have much more to celebrate than we have to regret."
On Saturday morning, NSW Police said they were investigating the politically charged vandalism.
"Officers from Sydney City Local Area Command are investigating a number of incidents of malicious damage of statues in Hyde Park. The vandalism is believed to have been between 2 and 3am today. Three crime scenes have been established throughout the park and enquiries are continuing," a spokesperson said.
Police are currently seeking a man of Caucasian appearance with a full face beard to assist with their inquiries.Suggest a correction