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Indigenous Australian to demand return of stolen shield from British Museum

A DESCENDANT of Australia’s indigenous Gweagal people will demand on Saturday that the British Museum return a shield stolen by British explorer James Cook in the 18th century.

The shield was “violently” taken from an ancestor of Rodney Kelly during the very first contact between the British and Australian Aborigines in 1770.

Mr Kelly said the Gweagal shield is “a gateway” with the potential to “open the discourse on the tragic modern history” of indigenous Australians under colonisation.

“The British Museum must realise that this sacred object still has vital and imperative cultural work to do in Australia,” he said. “The time has come for all of our artefacts to be returned.

“My people are suffering and our culture is dying. We need our artefacts back to bring our culture back together.

“The healing power that this shield has for Aboriginal Australia is much greater than any value it can have as part of the British Museum. No foreign institution can tell our stories as we can.”

Following new research, the museum has said it is no longer sure that the shield on display is the same one that was held by Mr Kelly’s ancestor. As recently as 2015, the museum’s Indigenous Australia exhibition said that it was.

Mr Kelly will speak at the unofficial Stolen Goods Tour organised by activist group BP or not BP alongside campaigners calling for the British Museum to return stolen objects from other areas.

People of Iraqi descent will challenge the museum’s use of looted items in its Assyria exhibition, sponsored by oil company BP, while the Rapa Nui Pioneers, an indigenous cultural organisation from Easter Island, will call for the return of a traditional Moai head.

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