Connecting with a Collection
"We have a lot of what we call the Stolen Generation who come back to country seeking their place. A place like this, particularly now, when we don’t have our own place, is really important for them to make that connection through."
- Eileen Alberts, Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.
Dunkeld Museum has a large variety of Aboriginal artefacts. Three years ago the Museum began the process of registering the collection with Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (AAV). Museum volunteers and members of the local Aboriginal community worked together to research and register the artefacts. In this video, some of those involved talk about the benefits and their experiences.
Wendy Williams from Dunkeld Museum explains the history of the collection and what registration means for the museum, Tim Chatfield from the Martang Registered Aboriginal Party and Eileen Alberts from the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, talk about the benefits of registration and its importance to Aboriginal communities.
The registration process has improved interpretation and presentation of Aboriginal perspectives of the district’s cultural heritage; ensured that the Dunkeld & District Historical Museum meets its legal obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006; improved access to the collection and fostered a partnership between the museum and traditional owners.
-Most of our collection is what we call the Ramsey Hay collection, because it was donated by the family of Ramsey Hay.
-The display is outstanding in terms of when people do come to this area, they get a broad understanding of Gunditjmara and also Djab Wurrung artifacts.
-How Ramsey came to have these artifacts was that there was an Aboriginal man, called Bobbie, who Ramsey found in his paddock, and he was ill. Ramsey took him into the house, looked after him, and the following day another of his tribesman came and collected Bobbie, took him back to the tribe. Ramsey thought that was all he would ever hear about it. But about a month later, an Aboriginal person arrived with a message stick, gave the message stick to Ramsey, and then proceeded to explain to him that Bobbie had regained his health and wished to come and visit him. So about a week later, Bobbie, and the friend who came to collect him, came to visit Ramsey, presented them with the artifacts that we have here, and they were a gift as a thank you for Ramsey looking after him.
-The researching process is a process of protection. It also helps us to know these things are out there. Let's say there was a developer working up this way. We could say, look, go in to Dunkeld Museum and have a look, have a look at the rocks that they've got in there. They're not really rocks. Have a closer look. You know, if you come across these when you're out there walking across the paddock this is what it is. You know? Leave it there, get someone to come register it, and bring it into a safe place like this.
-About three years ago, it was suggested that we should register our aboriginal collection. And there was a lot of opposition to that in the local community, because a lot of people felt that this collection would be taken off us if we attempted to register it. However, in working with the Aboriginal Heritage Council in Ballarat, we discovered that that wasn't to be the case. It meant that our collection here was protected. It can't be removed from our building without our permission and the permission of the two local tribes.
-That means that people who have collections out there will feel as though they could bring a collection in for it to be showcased like this, without any fear of reprisal. I guess, a lot of farmers nowadays fear that, because all private collections should be registered.
-The situation with the tribes has been fantastic. We've had a lot of support. The Aboriginal Heritage Council has sent two people up to actually classify and to measure and to catalog all the items in the collection-- to give them correct names and things like that, because we had names on them that we've been told were correct, but when we actually worked with the tribal people, they aren't. They're not described as they traditionally were.
-We have a lot of what we call stolen generation, who come back to countries seeking their place, a place like this. Particularly now, when we don't have our own place, it's really important for them to make that contact through.
-I think that's a good thing we're, you know, getting our own generational Aboriginal people be able to come to these places and feel these objects and have access to them.