A Ngarrindjeri elder said he was disappointed that vandals targeted a Mount Compass cow statue with red paint in the early hours of Friday, but police said they had been unable to establish a link between the vandalism and Australia Day.

Several nearby road signs were also defaced in the Fleurieu Peninsula town, south of Adelaide.

Ngarrindjeri elder Mark Koolmatrie, who runs cultural education tours at nearby Yundi and has worked with the local school, says the vandalism  went against the community’s spirit.

“Mount Compass is such a brilliant little community,” he said.

“The cows are part of that community.”

Ngarrindjeri elder Mark Koolmatrie runs cultural tours at nearby Yundi.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

A South Australia Police spokesperson said the vandalism took place sometime between 3pm on January 25 and 7am January 26 but no suspects had been identified.

The cows were decorated throughout the year by the Mount Compass Lifestyle Group (MCLG) and had been adorned with an Australian flag and a string of thongs.

The cows had been decorated to mark Australia Day.(Supplied: Mount Compass Lifestyle Group)

Denise Coomans from MCLG said while the attack had left locals angry and upset it had also brought the community together.

Her husband Bill was the first to notice the damage and immediately phoned Country Fire Service brigade Captain Anthony Baker for help.

“I reckon by 10 o’clock Anthony had come out with three members of the CFS, and his wife, and they cleaned it down,” she said.

The local supermarket donated replacement flags and the cow was redecorated.

Signs in the area were also targeted with the paint.(Supplied: Mount Compass Lifestyle Group)

“That’s community spirit and everyone rallying to get it done,” Ms Coomans said.

She said some long-term damage had been done to the statue, with areas of grout now stained, and additional cracks in the head of the cow that were not evident before.

“Unfortunately, it does mean the cows may have to have some sort of regeneration, which they are probably due for.”

Ms Coomans said the cost of repairs was unknown at this stage.

Mrs Coomans was concerned that the statue was also cracked in the attack.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

CCTV footage of a man in the vicinity at about 3:30am on Friday had been forwarded to the police.

Mrs Coomans said the cows were “apolitical” and would next be decorated for Valentine’s Day.

Denise Coomans and Glenda Connor are part of the community group that decorate the cows.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

The Mount Compass cow statues were installed in the 1990s as part of a community art project that included the local school and hundreds of donated hours of time from residents.

Mr Koolmatrie said the area had been a traditional meeting place for the Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Peramangk people but there was still much to rediscover about the Warki people of the Ngarrindjeri who had lived nearby.

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