The return of key Aboriginal artefacts from the point of first contact between Captain Cook and the First Peoples of Australia was supported by NSW Parliament today after a motion calling for the repatriation of the Gweagal shield and spears from the British Museum and the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to the Gweagal people passed the Upper House.
The Gweagal shield and a number of spears were taken from Gweagal man Cooman by James Cook on the shores of Botany Bay in 1770. Cooman’s descendant Rodney Kelly has been pushing for the return of these important artefacts to their rightful and lawful owners.
As reported by the Bega District News:
Bermagui man Rodney Kelly and his daughter Shakira were part of Australian history today in state parliament.
The NSW Upper House voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to pass a motion acknowledging the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal tribe as rightful owners of artefacts stored in the British Museum and the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
An ecstatic Mr Kelly said it was the first time in Australian history any parliament has fully supported a motion on an Indigenous issue.
The Gweagal shield and numerous spears were taken by Captain Cook’s landing party at Botany Bay in 1770 after shooting at Cooman, a Gweagal warrior and descendant of Mr Kelly.
The incident was one of the first moments of contact between Europeans and Australia’s Indigenous people.
The motion was raised by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge after being contacted by Mr Kelly in his battle to have the artefacts repatriated.
The motion as passed by Parliament:
Mr Shoebridge says—
I give notice that on the next sitting day I will move:
- That this House notes that:
- In 1770 two members of the Gweagal people stood on the shore of the place now called Botany Bay as a boat containing James Cook and some of his crew approached the shore.
- The Gweagal men were holding spears and a shield and they attempted to warn-off the interlopers, an action that was responded to with gunfire.
- One of the men, Cooman, was shot in the leg and he ran for cover, dropping his shield.
- This shield, and a number of spear and other artefacts from their camp were taken by Cook and given to the British Museum when he returned there, and the shield and a number of the spears remain in the museum’s collection
- a significant number of the spears taken are now also held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
- That this House acknowledges that:
- It is a core part of Aboriginal belief that artefacts must be kept on the Country they came from, as they form a part of the ongoing story of that place.
- State laws covering Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales recognise the strong connection between Aboriginal people, their land and their artefacts.
- The Gweagal People and their descendants are the rightful and lawful owners of all artefacts produced on their territory including the shield and spears held in the British Museum and the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
That this House acknowledges the work done by Cooman’s descendant Rodney Kelly to push for the repatriation of these important artefacts.
That this House supports the repatriation of these important artefacts to the Gweagal people.