Sydney's Martin Place Cenotaph damaged in 'disrespectful' act of vandalism

The vandals were caught sitting on a statue's soldiers, bending his bayonet in the process.
The vandals were caught sitting on a statue's soldiers, bending his bayonet in the process. Photo credit: Getty Images / NSW Police Media

One of Sydney's most significant memorials, the Cenotaph, has been desecrated in an act of vandalism widely condemned as "disgusting" and "disrespectful" to Australia's fallen soldiers. 

The Cenotaph is one of the oldest World War I monuments in central Sydney. Located on Martin Place, the heritage-listed monument was constructed over a two-year period between 1927 and 1929.

A group of five men were caught on CCTV climbing on the Cenotaph during the early hours of Saturday morning, one of whom sat on the shoulders of one of the two bronze ANZAC soldiers.

The footage, released by New South Wales (NSW) authorities on Monday, also appears to show the group posing for pictures. The soldier's bronze bayonet was bent due to their behaviour.

After being notified of the damage to the monument, NSW Police launched an investigation. 

Ray James, the President of the NSW branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) - a support organisation for people who have served or are serving in the Australian Defence Force - told 7News the vandalism is a "personal attack on all members of the community".

"It's a very special memorial and it's a special memorial for all Australians. Not just veterans, but all Australians," he told the outlet.

"It's very disturbing and disgusting."

The vandals were caught on CCTV.
The vandals were caught on CCTV. Photo credit: NSW Police Media

Acting Superintendent Paul Dunstan told the Sydney Morning Herald the damage to the soldier's bayonet occurred at about 3.10am on Saturday (local time).

"I cannot explain what would be running through their minds.

"It's incredibly disappointing because the behaviour is incredibly disrespectful to our fallen."

Dunstan said the young men could be charged with malicious damage and specific offences relating to damaging war memorials.

The culprits are described as being of Caucasian appearance and aged around 18 to 20.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has condemned the desecration of the memorial, saying it's important for all Australians to understand the sacrifices made by the country's veterans.

"I think it's really hurtful that a small number of Australians don't appreciate the sacrifices many Australians made, who lost their lives and lost their livelihoods over many, many decades for our freedoms," she told reporters on Monday.

"It's incumbent on us to make sure that every single Australian citizen is aware and grateful for the sacrifices made by our ex-servicemen and women.

"Anyone who defaces what is sacred to all of us will receive the full force of the law."

In 2013, a 21-year-old French man was charged after climbing the memorial, putting a traffic cone on one of the soldiers, posing for photos, and damaging a bayonet.