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Aboriginal Spears Stolen By Captain Cook Will Be Returned To Their True Owners After 251 Years

Aboriginal Spears Stolen By Captain Cook Will Be Returned To Their True Owners After 251 Years

They've been on display at a museum in the UK for years and now they're finally coming home.

Stewart Perrie

Stewart Perrie

Aboriginal spears stolen when Captain Cook landed in Australia will finally be returned to their traditional owners.

It's been 251 years since the British coloniser took the spears from the Gweagal people in what's now known as Kurnell in Sydney's south.

They eventually made their way to Trinity College in Cambridge's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in England and that's where they've been ever since.

Dharawal and Yuin man Rodney Kelly has been campaigning for years for the spears to be sent back to their rightful place and even flew to the UK to personally plead with the museum.

After a lot of effort, he's finally had his win.

National Library of Australia

According to the ABC, Mr Kelly says he can trace his ancestry to one of the warriors who opposed Captain Cook when he landed at Botany Bay in 1770.

He's pleased the Cambridge Museum has been kind enough to return the spears and he's also calling on the British Museum to relinquish ownership of a Gweagal shield.

The shield has been described as having a 'strong historical and cultural significance to Aboriginal people as an example of traditional weaponry and workmanship'.

New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman said in a speech to parliament earlier this year while it might not be overwhelmingly grand, its 'importance to our nation's first people cannot be overstated'.

The Trustees of the British Museum

Mr Kelly has been backed by Australian politicians who have supported the notion of Aboriginal artefacts being looked after by Indigenous people.

"I've been talking with these politicians and they pretty much think the same as me," he said to the ABC.

"That's why they've taken on this campaign and are really trying to make things happen. It's not only that these items are so significant to Aboriginal people, but to everybody. They tell that history of both sides and we can learn from that."

Indigenous campaigners have heralded this as a huge victory because of how closely these spears are tied to Australia's history.

La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson Noeleen Timbery told NITV: "It's important we do everything in our power to get them back here to show the community's ongoing connection back to that time.

"The Gweagal were amongst the first of First Nations people to be impacted by European arrival. We are still here, and we haven't forgotten."

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Featured Image Credit: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Topics: Australia