Featured News Djungan and Djabugay artefacts return home

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Mon, 24 Oct 2022

Djungan and Djabugay artefacts return home

Dennis Hunter mian alt text
Djabugay man Dennis Hunter holds a boomerang made by his Grandfather, with whom he shares the traditional name of Badadjaygul.

James Cook University has begun a long-term project to repatriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials held in the University’s Material Culture Collection.

“The collection was used as a teaching resource from 1975 until 2003, when JCU stopped teaching courses in material culture and curatorial studies,” JCU Vice Chancellor Simon Biggs said.

“Many items were purchased by the University or were donated. There are also a few items that are ‘on loan’ to JCU, having been left with us for safekeeping by family members,” he said.

In 2004 JCU transferred more than 2,000 artefacts from the collection to the Queensland Museum.

“Our judgement now, and the advice from authorities such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, is that the remaining artefacts, where possible, should be returned to the peoples whose heritage they are,” Professor Biggs said.

“Thanks to many years of work by Professor of Anthropology, Rosita Henry, and Trish Barnard – an experienced Indigenous collections manager and curator – items have been identified and catalogued, and contact is being made with relevant people and communities.”

In the first of many handovers, the University returned artefacts to representatives of two Aboriginal communities on Friday (21st October).

JCU returned a boomerang and a stone axe-head to representatives of the Djabugay community, along with six photographic slides that show Dan Coleman making a rainforest sword and a basket at Kuranda.

At the same event, representatives of the Djungan community accepted a group of bark paintings which were donated to the Material Culture Collection in 1977 by the Australian Heritage Gallery.

Two of these were painted by Jimmy Junkinburri Archer, who welcomed their return with his daughters, Lesley and Connie Archer. The Archer family were able to identify the remaining paintings as the work of their uncle and brother George Narabullgun Archer.

“It’s a pleasure to hand back these items, knowing they will be welcomed and valued by the communities in which they were created,” Professor Rosita Henry said.

Professor Henry said JCU also holds 61 secret or sacred objects associated with men’s business, and a collection of 24 sensitive photographs of women, which are judged to be women’s business.

“These items are stored in a secure facility, where access is strictly controlled. In line with Queensland’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, JCU is working on returning these to the appropriate communities or custodians where possible.”

No human remains are included in the JCU Material Culture Collection.


Media enquiries:

Professor Rosita Henry - rosita.henry@jcu.edu.au