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‘I don’t call them artefacts I call them the best Aussie tools ever made. They last for thousands of years. The tools tell us that our people were occupying this land. It is very significant that a lot more of our younger generation want to learn about stone tools and things like that.’ 

Mr Ron Jones, Wurundjeri Elder.

Israel Museum returns

Number of objects Return destination Institution Dates
5 items, stone tools

Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung, Melbourne, VIC

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Request submitted:
9 May 2022

Return celebration:
14 November 2022

1 stone tool Dja Dja Wurrung, Bendigo, VIC The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Request submitted:
9 May 2022

Return celebration:
Private return 27 October 2022

35 items, stone tools Eastern Maar, Warrnambool, VIC The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Request submitted:
9 May 2022

Return celebration:
23 March 2023

This was the first return from the Middle East under the Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) program.  

The collection is housed at AIATSIS while further research and consultation is undertaken to confirm the source communities.  

‘The exciting cooperation between IMJ and AIATSIS originated in a moving visit to the Israel Museum by a delegation of representatives of the Aboriginal community in 2019, an encounter which led to joint research. This collaborative effort ultimately led to the decision to return the collection.’ 

Professor Ido Bruno, Director of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 

Eastern Maar return

On 8 May 2023, 35 stone tools were returned to Eastern Maar people via a representative of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. The Eastern Maar people are the Traditional Owners of the south-western region of Victoria. Their land extends as far north as Ararat and encompasses the Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Great Ocean Road areas. 

‘The return of these artefacts has brought me a range of emotions, from deep pride to being overwhelmed with gratitude. Knowing that our ancestors' possessions, which were stolen, taken, or lost, have finally been returned to their rightful place on Country, brings them rest and peace. This is a significant step towards healing and reconciliation, and it is a testament to the resilience and strength of our community.’ 

Amos Harradine – Aboriginal Heritage Officer, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. 

Returning stone tools to Eastern Maar people. Left to right: Christiane Keller, Heath Garrett, Shaun Angeles, Nathalia Guimaraes, Iain Johnston, Ophelia Rubinich. Photo: K Kerehona, AIATSIS.

Left to right: Christiane Keller, Nathalia Guimaraes, Iain Johnston and Shaun Angeles. Photo: K Kerehona, AIATSIS.

Dja Dja Wurrung return 

In November 2022, one stone tool was returned the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation in Bendigo, the home of the Djaara people.

‘These are tools that your ancestors once held, once used in their daily lives. They link today’s Community directly to those ancestors. The story of the stone tools is a part of the story of the First Nations peoples of this continent. At AIATSIS, our task is to help tell that story.’  

Mr Craig Ritchie, CEO of AIATSIS.  

Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung return 

In October 2022, the first five stone tools were returned to the care of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

‘The significance of finding just one tool proves that our people, over thousands of years, have passed through that area following in their ancestors’ footsteps. The tools tell us that our people were occupying this land.’ 

Mr Ron Jones, Wurundjeri Elder.  

Wurundjeri Elder Ron Jones with AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie. Photo: D Walding, AIATSIS.

Stone objects being returned to Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung community. Photo. D Walding, AIATSIS. 

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Last updated: 11 February 2024