The Wiradjuri Technical Advisory Panel (WTAP) has been working alongside the Australian Museum’s Repatriation Officer Phil Gordon to return culturally significant carved trees to Wiradjuri country, as part of Dubbo Regional Council’s (DRC), Destination Dubbo project and development of the Wiradjuri Tourism Centre. Now, the application to bring the sacred carved trees back home to country has been submitted, and the ceremonial planning to transport the trees back to Dubbo can commence with community.

In July, the WTAP panel met with Mr Gordon, who has extensive experience in the repatriation of culturally significant items, to decide on what would be an appropriate way forward for the secret / sacred carved trees, which remain in storage at the Australian Museum.

The WTAP have worked tirelessly with council and community to develop and now submit an application to bring 23 sacred carved trees home to Dubbo.

“The Wiradjuri Technical Advisory Panel agreed it was important that the carved trees be brought back home to Wiradjuri country, and have the ancestral spirits rest in a specifically designed building which will be built alongside, but remain separate to the new Wiradjuri Tourism Centre.  It is important for Community to bring their ancestors home and have a place for ancestors to rest, reconnect with country and reconnect to community, some of them have been away for over 130 years,” said DRC’s Tourism Product Development Manager Nicola Chandler.

DRC has been working alongside traditional owners, the Aboriginal Working Party, WTAP and community to bring the sacred carved trees home, along with other artefacts which have been stored at the Australian Museum for a number of decades.

Mayor of the Dubbo Region, Councillor Ben Shields, says it’s vitally important these carved trees are brought back onto country, and prior to their arrival, great consideration be given to building a specific and secure resting place.

“We have a commitment to ensure these sacred carved trees are returned to community and brought back to country, and under guidance from the WTAP, and the Australian Museum’s Phil Gordon, we will be respectful of this process,” said Councillor Shields.

Staff from DRC’s Cultural Development Team have undergone intensive training to further understand repatriation principles, policy, and practice, to ensure that staff have a deeper understanding of the history of the removal of Indigenous ancestral remains, and the significance of relocating ancestral spirits along with sacred artefacts. Staff have undertaken formal and community engaged learning that will help develop a holistic knowledge of repatriation and an understanding of its inter-connectedness with Indigenous lore, culture, ethics, country, and community development.

“It’s integral and culturally respectful to listen to our community elders, engage in learning and understand the significance of repatriation of ancestral spirits on our community and our country. It has given us invaluable insight into how we need to take care of these sacred carved trees when the new Wiradjuri Tourism Centre is completed and able to store them separately and safely,” said Ms Chandler.

Last Edited: 12 Oct 2020

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