The statue was unveiled in Victoria Square on 4 June 1904 amid controversy. None of the four surviving members of Stuart’s final expedition attended the ceremony. They had written to the Caledonian Society protesting against the selection of Maxwell’s design, arguing that it bore no resemblance to the man, that it represented Stuart ‘from a mere artistic point’. They wrote: ‘for the public and posterity we would like Stuart to appear as the typical bushman he undoubtedly was’. The society was also criticised for stubbornly sticking to a date for the unveiling that clashed with the commitments of the governor, lieutenant-governor, and the premier and his ministry.
The revealed statue and base confirmed their original concerns. Among the concerns were that the names of the nine members of Stuart’s party did not appear on the front of the memorial, but were relegated to the side. Regardless of the furore, or perhaps partly because of it, the memorial proved popular, as numerous members of the public came to view it on the days that followed the unveiling.