Smoking ceremony at Melbourne Museum's Milarri Garden marking the return of the Baradine dendroglyph to its traditional owners.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
A carved tree, or dendroglyph, has been repatriated to the traditional owners of Baradine, the Gamilaroi Nation, in moving ceremonies held at both Museum Victoria and in Baradine, NSW.
The carved tree is historically associated with the burials of five named Aboriginal men, and was acquired by Museum Victoria in 1921 through an exchange with the Australian Museum in Sydney. The tree was carved in 1876 and its provenance has been securely linked to the original burial site of the five men. Museum Victoria’s Indigenous Cultures Department worked with the Gamilaroi traditional owners over two years to confirm the cultural significance of the carved tree.
John Duggan, Assistant Collection Manager in the Indigenous Cultures Department, played a pivotal role in the tree’s return, which was an important and emotional experience for him. "Tears were shed and emotions were heartfelt both here at the museum and in Baradine," said John. "Many communities across NSW still view carved trees as culturally significant. They act like reminders, and are surviving remnants of our unique and prosperous past."
John said that many non-Indigenous people from the Baradine area also attended the repatriation ceremony, including the farming family who own the property where the tree once stood. The tree is now on display at the Bardine Local Aboriginal Land Council office alongside other artefacts.