Petition Closed

Repatriate the Gweagal Artefacts by 29th April 2020

This petition had 854 supporters

on the 29th of April 2020 it will be 250 years since James Cook and his crew landed on the beach at Botany Bay Kurnell by musket fire wounding a man and taking everything they could carry back to England 

What are the Gweagal Artefacts?
The Gweagal Artefacts are the shield and spears taken by James Cook and his companions when they first stood on Australian soil at Botany Bay in 1770. As they approached the shore Cook and his crew were warned-off by two Gweagal men shaking spears at them and shouting. In the exchange that followed the shield’s owner, Cooman, was shot in the leg by Cook and ran for cover. The shield was then taken by Cook from where it was left along with 40 to 50 Spears

How do we know James Cook took the Artefacts?
These events are recorded in the diaries of James Cook, Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson made during the voyage of the Endeavour in 1770. The story has also been passed down through the generations by the Gweagal people.
Cook took the shield back to England as well as 40 to 50 Gweagal spears that were taken that day. The shield has been held by the British Museum ever since. Some of the spears are currently in the collection of Cambridge University.

Who are the Gweagal people?
The Gweagal are a clan of the Dhurawal Aboriginal people whose country covers the Southern shores of Botany Bay and extends out towards Liverpool in the West and towards the Shoalhaven in the South.
Why is this important?
In Aboriginal cultural belief and practice all artefacts must be kept on the Country they came from. They always remain an integral part of the story of that Country. State laws covering Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales recognise this fact.
It is very disrespectful to keep artefacts such as the Gweagal Shield and Spears away from their home.
What do we want?
This protest and campaign seeks to bring the Gweagal Shield and Spears back to Country in the Sydney region and placed in an appropriate keeping place or museum.
Who is Rodney Kelly?
Rodney is a sixth generation descendant of the shield’s owner Cooman and is committed to seeing the shield returned to its home Country in Sydney.


Below is a sample from Joseph Banks' account (known as the Endevour Journal) from April 1770

as soon as we aproachd the rocks two of the men came down upon them, each armd with a lance of about 10 feet long and a short stick which he seemd to handle as if it was a machine to throw the lance. They calld to us very loud in a harsh sounding Language of which neither us or Tupia understood a word, shaking their lances and menacing, in all appearance resolvd to dispute our landing to the utmost tho they were but two and we 30 or 40 at least. In this manner we parleyd with them for about a quarter of an hour, they waving to us to be gone, we again signing that we wanted water and that we meant them no harm. They remaind resolute so a musquet was fird over them the Effect of which was that the Youngest of the two dropd a bundle of lances on the rock at the instant 

in which he heard the report; he however snatchd them up again and both renewd their threats and opposition. A Musquet loaded with small shot was now fird at the Eldest of the two who was about 40 yards from the boat; it struck him on the legs but he minded it very little so another was immediately fird at him; on this he ran up to the house about 100 yards distant and soon returnd with a sheild. In the mean time we had landed on the rock. He immediately threw a lance at us and the young man another which fell among the thickest of us but hurt nobody; 2 more musquets with small shot were then fird at them on which the Eldest threw one more lance and then ran away as did the other. We went up to the houses, in one of which we found the children hid behind the sheild and a peice of bark in one of the houses. We were conscious from the distance the people had been from us when we fird that the shot could have done them no material harm; we therefore resolvd to leave the children on the spot without even opening their shelter. 
We therefore threw into the house to them some beads, ribbands, cloths &c. as presents and went away. We however thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could find about the houses, amounting in number to forty or fifty

four spears owned by Trinity College Cambridge and on display at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology one shield owned and on display in The British Museum and one spear in the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden

We believe that this act of violence upon very first contact in 1770 between the British and Original Australians is a crime and all Gweagal Artefacts stolen that day must be returned.

The fact that these Museum's and Trinity College refuse to return The Gweagal artefacts is evidence of ongoing colonial mentality that perpetrated the frontier Massacres which wiped out nearly 90% of this countries Original Inhabitants and It is an insult for them to say that we can borrow what they clearly do not own,

they are holding  stolen artefact's and therefore are complicit in the crime of theft. It is the wish of my Elders that the Gweagal Artefacts be returned to the Gweagal People immediately

Donate to the Campaign here

Rodney Kelly


Today: rodney is counting on you

rodney kelly needs your help with “The British Museum and Trinity College Repatriate the Gweagal Artefacts Taken in 1770 by Cook and his crew before 29th April 2020”. Join rodney and 853 supporters today.