160823 Rodney KellyWe have been working with Gweagal man Rodney Kelly to secure the return of the Gweagal Shield and Spears taken from his ancestor, Gweagal warrior Cooman, by Captain James Cook on the shores of Botany Bay in 1770. The Gweagal Spears are now held by the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Gweagal Shield by the British Museum.

Rodney and his family came to Parliament on August 24th when NSW Parliament became the first Parliament in Australia to support the repatriation of stolen Aboriginal artefacts. David successfully moved 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

On October 11th Rodney travelled to Federal Parliament to see Australian Greens Senators Rachel Siewert and Lee Rhiannon also pass a motion calling for the repatriation of the Gweagal Shield and Spears. Senator Seiewert and the NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister have also requested diplomatic assistance be extended to Rodney during his travels to England to negotiate with the cultural institutions which hold these artefacts.

Similar motions were passed by Greens Councillors in Bega Shire Council and Sutherland Shire Council.

Our office has made a formal submission to Cambridge University for the return of the Gweagal Spears, evidencing that Rodney is the direct descendent of Gweagal man Cooman and asserting the Gweagal people to be the rightful and lawful owners of the spears.

Rodney is currently in England with a group of Indigenous activists to request the return of these artefacts from Cambridge University and the British Museum.

We’re continuing to work with Rodney to secure the return of this important heritage. It’s clear that there is a need for an established protocol in Australia to facilitate the active return of Aboriginal artifacts seized and now held in museums around the world.

The motion as passed by NSW Parliament:

1. That this House notes that:

a) 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.
b) 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.
c) One of the men, Cooman, was shot in the leg and he ran for cover, dropping his shield.
d)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
e)a significant number of the spears taken are now also held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

2. That this House acknowledges that:

a)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.
b)State laws covering Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales recognise the strong connection between Aboriginal people, their land and their artefacts.
c)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.
d) That this House acknowledges the work done by Cooman’s descendant Rodney Kelly to push for the repatriation of these important artefacts.
e)That this House supports the repatriation of these important artefacts to the Gweagal people.

The motion as passed by Federal Parliament:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) 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,(ii) the Gweagal men were holding spears and a shield and they attempted to warn off the interlopers, an actionthat was responded to with gunfire,
(iii) one of the men, Cooman, was shot in the leg and he ran for cover, dropping his shield,(iv) this shield and a number of spears and other artefacts from their camp were taken by James Cook andgiven to the British Museum when he returned there, and the shield and a number of the spears remain in theMuseum’s collection, and
(v) a significant number of the spears taken are now also held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeologyand Anthropology;

(b) acknowledges that:
(i) 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,
(ii) laws covering Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales recognise the strong connection betweenAboriginal people, their land and their artefacts, and
(iii) 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;

(c) recognises the work done by Cooman’s descendant Mr Rodney Kelly to push for the repatriation of these important artefacts;
(d) supports the repatriation of these important artefacts to the Gweagal people; and
(e) requests the Australian Government extend diplomatic assistance to Mr Rodney Kelly while he is in the United Kingdom seeking the return of the artefacts