Return of sacred carved burial tree an event of significance and healing

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Return of sacred carved burial tree an event of significance and healing. 

24 March 2010

For the Gomeroi people of North Western New South Wales  April 16, 2010 is a very special day - the day a sacred carved burial tree removed 92 years ago will be returned to the small Aboriginal community of Baradine, near Coonabarabran..

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council's representative for the North West Region, Councillor Steve Gordon, said the return of the sacred carved tree was an event of great significance.

"It is part of our healing. That it is finally coming home is a cause for great joy and celebration".

It also ends a lengthy correspondence exchange between the Baradine Local Aboriginal Land Council with the Australian Museum in Sydney and Museum Victoria in Melbourne, after Baradine LALC members discovered that the sacred carved burial tree was kept in Melbourne.

"The Museums have been particularly co-operative in working with us to return the burial tree," said Baradine LALC CEO, Lorraine Ransfield.

She acknowledged that the person who had begun the campaign for the tree's return was LALC member Merv Sutherland, who works for the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC's) Cultural Heritage Division.

Merv is part of the Baradine LALC Repatriation Committee under Chairperson Ron Magann, Deputy Chair Robyn Ruttley and Board Member Patricia Madden who have been in constant contact with the Museum Victoria to put together a confirmed agenda for the tree's return.

On April 12, a Baradine LALC delegation will fly to Melbourne to officially take possession of the burial tree at Museum Victoria from the Museum's Head of Indigenous Cultures, Dr Michael Green.  Members of the Museum's Aboriginal Cultural Advisory Committee will also be in attendance.

The LALC delegation will comprise Mr Magann, Mrs Ruttley, Mr Sutherland, and DECC's  Manager North West Aboriginal Heritage Region, Christian Hampson,  and DECC's  Regional Projects Co-ordinator, Peter Peckham.

Merv Sutherland said Museum Victoria had also supplied a Museum van and driver, John Duggan, Assistant Collection Manager in the Indigenous Cultures Department to transport the burial tree back to Baradine.

"I will travel with him. John has been a great asset in arrangements for the return of our carved burial tree," Merv added.

Baradine LALC Chairperson Ron Magann said that the Land Council believes it is one of the very few occasions a sacred burial tree has ever been returned to the Aboriginal community from where it was either removed - or stolen.

"The handing back is history in the making," he said.

The tree will arrive back at Baradine Local Aboriginal Land Council on April 15 where its arrival will be marked by a special smoking ceremony. It will then be housed in a specially designed glass cabinet in the Baradine LALC's keeping place.

On Friday, April 16, community celebrations to mark the tree's return will be held at the Baradine Memorial Hall beginning at 10 am.

"When you know that the tree marked the 1868 burial place of five local Aboriginal men, whose names are known, and you also know who removed it and its subsequent history one can truly appreciate just how important is the occasion of its return," Mr Magann said.

What now remains of the original carved burial tree is the actual carved section of the original cypress tree which is 150 centimetres long and 46 centimetres in diameter.

"The original tree was cut down by NSW Forestry Commission rangers in 1918 and sent to the Australia Museum in Sydney in 1918. For three years it was part of their artefacts collection.  However, in 1921, as part of an exchange program of artefacts, it was transferred to the Museum of Victoria - now known as Museum Victoria".

The Baradine LALC's Repatriation Committee emphasized that everyone was welcome to attend the ceremony to mark its return.

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Further information: Peter Windsor  0400 554603 or Lorraine Ransfield on 02 68431171.