The Burke Museum in Beechworth is returning Aboriginal objects to their traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people of central Victoria. The objects include spears, boomerangs, shields and an axe.
They were taken from Dja Dja Wurrung land by collector RE Johns, who sold them to the Burke Museum 150 years ago.
Museum Collection Manager Linda Peacock has been involved in the repatriation process for a decade.
“This is the culmination of years of research and collaboration, and represents an ongoing shift in the role of museums,” Linda said.
“We believe that this is the first time that a museum in Victoria has actively instigated repatriation of an Aboriginal object collection.”
Linda said the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation was committed to protecting and managing cultural landscapes and sites, and ensuring Dja Dja Wurrung ancestral remains, cultural objects and collections are returned and protected.
“It’s humbling to be part of the process of returning such significant cultural material to its rightful owners,” Linda said.
To mark the process the museum is launching an exhibition, Return, to display 16 objects to be repatriated, alongside images of their country taken by Dja Dja Wurrung elder Linda Ford.
The exhibition will open at the Burke Museum, Loch Street Beechworth, at 7pm on Tuesday 15 May 2018 and will run until Friday 8 June.
Representatives of the Dja Dja Wurrung will be in Beechworth on 14-16 May as part of the repatriation process. The items’ new home will be the Bendigo Art Gallery.