The Australian Senate has passed a motion supporting the return of the Gweagle Shield and Spears, which were taken by Captain Cook's party after firing on Cooman, a Gweagle man in 1770 in what is now known as Botany Bay. The act signalled the start of what became known as the Frontier Wars and the subsequent ongoing 228 years of European occupation of Australia.
Rodney Kelly, an ancestor of Cooman is travelling to Europe to demand the return of these artefacts, most of which are held by the British Museum in Cambridge. He and his supporters will also travel to The Netherlands, Berlin and Sweden.
These photographs were taken at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and at the Australian parliament, where this historic motion was passed.
The significance of the passing of this parliamentary motion, for what it represents in terms of the acknowledgement of historical events, should not be underestimated.
The motion reads as follows:
Business of the Senate—Order of the Day 1 Community Affairs Legislation Committee Report to be presented on the provisions of the National Cancer Screening Register Bill 2016 and the National Cancer Screening Register (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2016.
General Business—Notice of Motion Notice given 15 September 2016 *61 Senator Siewert:
To move—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 action that was responded to with gunfire, (iii) one of the men, Cooman, was shot in the leg and he ran for cover, dropping his shield, No. 7—10 October 2016 9 (iv) this shield and a number of spears and other artefacts from their camp were taken by James 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, and (v) a significant number of the spears taken are now also held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and 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 between Aboriginal 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.