‘The Lardil Elders and the Wellesley Islands community sincerely appreciate the generosity of both Mr Routhan, who donated this item, and AIATSIS, who organised its return from England.’
Tommy Wilson, senior Lardil man.
|Number of objects||Return destination||Institution||Dates|
|1 item (Headdress)||Lardil Elders and the Wellesley Island, Mornington Island, QLD||Private collector, UK||
Request submitted: NA
A headdress, used during the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973, was owned privately by Mr Maurice Routhan in the UK. Mr Jack, a Lardil man and Traditional Owner of Gununa (Mornington Island) in the Gulf of Carpentaria, gave the headdress as a farewell gift to Mr Routhan, his neighbour in Sydney, when he returned to the UK in the 1970s. In recent years, Mr Routhan wanted the headdress to go back to where it belongs.
‘I am extremely proud to be given the headdress as a gift before I left Australia. Now that I am old, I felt it right and proper for Mr Jack’s headdress to be returned to its true home. It has been an honour to care for it, but it belongs there’
Mr Maurice Routhan, previous owner of Lardil headdress.
AIATSIS worked with the community, Mr Routhan and his family to arrange the return of the headdress to Australia in late January 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the return celebrations which took place in March 2022 at AIATSIS. For Lardil elders the return of the object after more than 50 years in the United Kingdom, signifies hope for the future.
‘We lost many artefacts like boomerangs, spears, paintings, rocks. All of these are important because it's how we teach the younger ones. It's how we tell our stories, and that's how we keep our culture alive.’
Lawrence Bourke, Lardil Elder and Songman.