Repatriation of Aboriginal Stone Artefacts
On the 1 March 2023 the Australian Institute of Archaeology returned three hundred and thirty-one stone artefacts to the Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council on behalf of the Gumbaynggirr people.
The material had been collected in 1969 by Mr Bill Rogers and the local historical society from the beaches near Coffs Harbour when it was threatened by sand mining and erosion. The collection was published and passed on to the Institute to be kept until it could be returned to the appropriate Aboriginal people.
The Institute actively sought to repatriate the material from 2017. Although the provenance of every object was known it still took until January 2023 to identify the proper process, get the required legal approvals and make all the necessary arrangements.
The Gumbaynggirr Elders were pleased to have the stone artefacts returned to them and considered it to be very affirming. They will take time to determine their future. A paper describing the history of the collection and the repatriation experience will be published later in 2023.
13 March 202
The smoking ceremony welcoming the stone artefacts back to country. It was conducted by the Gumbaynggirr Elders at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery and Museum Store. Present were the Mayor of Coffs Harbour, CEO of the Local Aboriginal Land Council, a Heritage Officer of Environment and Heritage NSW, Staff of the Coffs Harbour Council and Regional Gallery, Gumbaynggirr Elders and the Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology.