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Naomi Appleby – Yawuru
First recording 039A2373
1:24 – 2:17
[00:01:26.9 language] Naomi Appleby. I am a Yawuru and Gurajati [sic] woman and I live here in my country and Yawuru country in Broome. And have the privilege of working for my people at Nyamba Buru Yawuru. So NBY is the corporate arm to the PBC, the Yawuru native title holders and I am a project coordination officer here in the Future Acts and Heritage Unit, working with the heritage team. And also an emerging curator working under the mentorship of Sarah Yu and still remaining in the cultural heritage field.
Q Text 1: Why do you think this project is important to Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples and what do you see as the positive outcomes?
Well the return of the objects to country, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is very important because this is where the objects come from and they were made by the hands of our ancestors. It’s our DNA is within some of these objects and it should be returned home. So it’s important that they come back and the collecting institutions hopefully have an understanding of why they should be returned to the traditional owners. The positives of the objects being returned is we’re able to reconnect with these artefacts that were taken 150-200 years ago and it informs us what happened back then, of our culture that was interpreted really. So we’re able to do the historical research and better inform ourselves, the wider Australia, and use it as an educational tool to bring these items back where they should be.
Q Text 2: What do you see as the positive outcomes and the benefits to the country as a whole?
They should never have been taken in the first place but it would be a good healing process and it would be good for reconciliation as well, and to educate Australia of, I think it’s an untold story of what happened. I don’t think it’s been told in its proper way, especially the Indigenous perspective.
Q Text 3: What do you think young Yawuru people will feel about this project and the intergenerational transfer of knowledge from their Elders that the return of material will support?
I think there will be mixed emotions. I think that it will help youth to realise what actually happened and people will get a bit of a, maybe a reality shock of what happened during those early times. The research that went on and people collecting artefacts for whatever purposes, they want to prove the evolution theory or they want to know about this culture that was discovered. But I think that it will also provide a sense of closure that these items were taken and we want to heal from that and we want to move forward. And we want to learn from the items and the artefacts and maybe even remake them with modern technology. We can learn from that and it would be really great for the youth to be involved and learn from our elders, because they are our teachers and they hold quite a lot of knowledge of our culture, which is so important. It’s like our own library. So having the elders present to pass that knowledge down to what’s known as the oldest living culture in the world it’s really important for our cultural identity and our strength as a people.
Q Text 4: As a young Yawuru woman, how important do you think the return of materials to the community is to support the continuation of Yawuru culture, given previous interruptions to cultural practice?
In my personal opinion I think that the Yawuru people and surrounding traditional owner groups, the culture was never really lost, it just had an interruption there. Our ancestors had a bit of trauma where they were banned from continuing and using their language and culture and practices and were warned against really bad ramifications if they continued to do so. But thankfully we’ve got elders still within the community who have maintained that for us and it’s been really useful to be able to bring that back and continue with our culture. So the return of objects, and I’m only speaking about objects that are open, it would be great to be able to see that in their truest form made by traditional people from materials from the country, without any modern technology. This is their art work, this is their craft work. I think it would be beautiful to see what they look like and to see how they were made and their totem and their imprint on it. It’s like our heirloom really. There’s heirlooms in royal families, there’s objects that stay in families for generations and they belong to us, I’m just speaking for Yawuru, they should be here on country. And it’s a little bit frustrating that we’ve got to negotiate that and try and get it back, even though that they do belong here. They were taken without permission and used for other purposes; for people to gaze at and study and take apart. They represent so much more than artefacts I suppose. Now they represent history and inform us what happened back then.
Q Text 5: What message should this project and the recent repatriations of Yawuru ancestors send to collecting institutions in Australia and overseas about the repatriation of cultural heritage materials to Australia’s First Nations peoples?
Well I hope that our German repatriation is sending a good message all of the collecting institutions, especially in regards to ancestral remains.
There’s a lot of hurt. It’s opening a lot of old wounds for our people. And there’s some oral history accounts that definitely relate back to that first contact period that we still know today. So I hope that they will use this as an opportunity to connect with traditional owners and use it as a healing process and this is a way that we can educate people. And we’re getting more than one story; we’re getting both sides of the story and we’re doing this to have some closure as well and clear our lian, our spirit. It’s a way that we can all come together and move forward with this and put the past behind us but definitely give it its recognition that it deserves and tell that story with dignity.
Q Text 6: Are there any particular types of objects or related stories/knowledge you would be most excited about seeing returned?
Well I’d like to see some of the objects that the ladies made; women objects. There’s a lot of gender restrictions with cultural objects and as a woman I’d like to see what traditional practices our women had and what they used to continue with their culture and survival and everyday needs.