TLALC Chair Daisy Cutmore spoke at the repatriation ceremony. Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place Director Rose Lovelock (far right) held the Barraba Collection artefacts.Courtesy of TLALC, 2021.
Last October the 28th marked the significant repatriation of 81 Aboriginal artefacts from the Barraba region to Kamilaroi Country near Tamworth in New South Wales. For decades, these precious artefacts were held in private collections at private estates, but finally the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) was able to return the collection of artefacts to Country as part of their Aboriginal Artefact Strategy. This strategy aims to return as many ceremonial and cultural artefacts as possible to local First Nations communities (SBS, 2021).
At the Tamworth Botanical Gardens, Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council (TLALC) Chair Daisy Cutmore spoke at the repatriation ceremony of the significance of this welcoming of the collection home to Country and community:
"On behalf of the Tamworth and Barraba communities, TLALC is honoured to welcome this collection home, which we will treasure for our future generations.
It’s vital that we all keep working together on ensuring that important collections like these, are returned to Country and community.”
Charles Lynch, the NSWALC Deputy Chairperson and Councillor for the Northern Region also spoke during the ceremony, emphasising that the returning of these artefacts has given the local community the “peace of mind,” especially since the artefacts were nearly auctioned off from the private collections in the 90s (SBS, 2021).
"They were going to be auctioned off to the highest bidders some twenty-four, twenty-five years ago and a lot of this collection would have went overseas.
There is no value. This collection’s priceless to Aboriginal people," said Lynch.
The proud Kamilaroi man Lynch also highlighted that this has given the young people of the Tamworth and Barraba communities the opportunity to be able to connect with their local culture and history:
“We’ve got a younger generation that haven’t had the opportunity to see such items that they can hold, touch and see, and [doing that] for the first time excites them.
I think it will go a long way to fill some gaps and also, just re-focusing that cultural connection and better understanding.”
TLALC Chair Daisy Cutmore and Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place Director Rose Lovelock opening the wrapped Barraba Collection artefacts. Courtesy of TLALC, 2021.
The collection of artefacts includes a wide range of ceremonial pieces and stones with grinding marks. Lynch describes these artefacts as “priceless:”
“[It’s significant] for me personally as they were collected from a little place called Barraba, 100 kilometres north of Tamworth, and that happens to be my mother’s Country.
From my family’s perspective it’s a very proud moment; our ties back there are entrenched for many, many centuries.”
The collection of artefacts were purchased by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and have been held at the Armidale Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place (ACCKP) as part of their Aboriginal Artefact Collection for the last 20 years. Since the repatriation, the collection is being housed at the ACCKP in Tamworth until the artefacts can be returned to their original sites or used in educational settings for the local communities (SBS, 2021).
Former custodian of these artefacts and ACCKP Chair Rose Lovelock, stated how incredible the experience of being the caretaker for such a significant collection was:
“Our Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place has been honoured to be able to care for these priceless artefacts, and we’ve done our utmost to protect and respect them while they resided with us.
It gives me, the ACCKP Board and our staff the greatest pleasure to know they’re going home safe and intact, and we’re celebrating the fact that they’ll soon be making that wonderful trip home to their community.”
This historical handover has become part of the ongoing success of land and artefacts being returned back to its traditional owners across the nation. With handovers such as the Daintree Rainforest to the Kuku Yalanji people and the Kakadu Town Jabiru repatriated to the Mirarr Peoples, we hope that this history-making progress can continue to be made far into the future!
If you want to read our article about Australian scientists discovering the oldest known Aboriginal rock art painting, dating 17,3000 years old, click here.
You can also check out the discovery of some of the oldest bone tools that have been dug up in WA, click here.