Attunga woman finds Aboriginal artefacts on farm near Tamworth

RETURN TO COUNTRY: Len Waters, picture conducting a smoke ceremony, said it was refreshing to see people reaching out.
RETURN TO COUNTRY: Len Waters, picture conducting a smoke ceremony, said it was refreshing to see people reaching out.

WHEN Bonnie Henderson found Aboriginal artefacts in the wall of a shed on her Attunga property, she wasn’t sure what to do with them.

She turned to social media and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, with people applauding her for speaking up, and putting her in touch with various Aboriginal community members and organisations who could help. 

Ms Henderson is not sure how the items came to be in the shed, but believes there may have been an Aboriginal elder living there previously, who left them there for safe keeping. The artefacts include clap sticks, a long bark bowl and various rocks.

“I see it as giving it back to the people that it belongs to,” Ms Henderson said.

“It doesn’t belong to me, and it means so much more to them than it does to me.”

Local Aboriginal elder and Kamilaroi man Len Waters was one of the people she got in touch with.

“It’s really refreshing to see someone who’s not sure what to do, taking the time to reach out to the community,” Mr Waters said.

He, along with a few others, will go out to Ms Henderson’s property to have a look at the items, before recommending what to do with them – whether it be “returning them to land”, moving them to a sacred place or moving them to a keeping place, such as the ones at Tamworth hospital and the Tamworth Botanical Gardens.

Ms Henderson said she’d recently felt the presence of spirits around the house, which she believes is related to the artefacts.

Mr Waters said it was not uncommon for people to have a sense of unease, see spirits or even get sick when they take certain artefacts “away from country”.

He usually conducts a cleansing ceremony to “make people feel welcome and relieve any ill feeling”.

“Non-Aboriginal people can have a real sort of spiritual intake from being around these places or things,” he said.

“If non-Aboriginal people are feeling that way, it says a lot for the spirit world that Aboriginal people have so much belief in.”

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Mr Waters said people were finding items on their land “more frequently than you’d imagine”.

But there is a common misconception among some landholders that by finding Aboriginal artefacts on their property somehow entitled Aboriginal people to that land – and it’s a misconception that often stops people from speaking up.

“It's a sad blight on peoples’ knowledge of Aboriginal cultural ways, we don’t just come on to peoples’ land without an invitation,” Mr Waters said.

“If anyone has found stuff or has been hanging on to anything, it's always a good thing to get it checked out to see how important it is, and what we can maybe do with it.

“Particularly if it’s something like a rock painting in a cave that may need restoring.”

Ms Henderson was also keen to dispel the myth and encourage others to come forward if they had found Aboriginal items on their property.

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