New Zealand Will Return Warumungu Artefacts To The NT A Century After Being Taken

The artefacts were plucked from the Warumungu community by a telegraph station master and British-born anthropologist.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Six Indigenous artefacts will be returned to Country after nearly 100 years of being in New Zealand.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) confirmed on Sunday that the six Warumungu objects will be sent back from the Tūhura Otago Museum to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory after discussions between the two organisations.

A boomerang (kalpunta), adze tool (palya/kupija), and a selection of stone knives (marttan) are among the collection and are thought to have been collected between the late 19th and early 20th century by a telegraph station master and British-born anthropologist.

The museum in Dunedin then acquired the objects from Museum Victoria in 1923 and 1937, where they’ve been held ever since, until AIATSIS first raised discussions of their significance and requested their repatriation.

“Them old things they were carved by the old people who had the songs for it, too. I’m glad these things are returning back,” said senior Warumungu man Michael Jones, in a statement.

“The museums are respecting us, and they’ve been thinking about us. They weren’t the ones who took them, they just ended up there. We can still teach the young people now about these old things and our culture.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, welcomed the museum’s good faith return and cooperation.

“The return of cultural heritage material after more than a century is a significant moment for the Warumungu people and fundamental to the processes of truth-telling and reconciliation,” she said. “Repatriations like these are critical for the transfer of knowledge, cultural maintenance, and revitalisation for future generations.”

A delegation of Warumungu representatives will travel to New Zealand later this year to collect the materials, participating in a handover ceremony with local Māori communities. The returned objects will be displayed at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre in Tennant Creek upon their return.

Photo Credit: AIATSIS