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Dungowan artefacts returned to Country

Giovanni Torre -

Thousands of stone artefacts found during the Dungowan Dam investigations in northern New South Wales have been returned to Kamilaroi/Gomeroi Country during a smoking ceremony at the Tamworth Botanical Gardens.

Representatives from the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water's First Nations team, the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council, and other registered Aboriginal parties were on hand last week to help with the repatriation.

A total of 3,444 Aboriginal artefacts were uncovered during site surveys and excavations between 2021 and 2023.

Evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have occupied the Dungowan area for more than 5,000 years.

Due to Dungowan's isolated location, which is a 40-minute drive from Tamworth, it was decided a more accessible repatriation site was needed to enable Aboriginal people to have unrestricted access for connection to land and educational purposes.

Over the past six months, the NSW government worked with local Aboriginal communities to find the most appropriate reburial site and landed on an area at the Tamworth Botanical Gardens where visitors young and old can come and go freely.

The artefacts are in the Aboriginal section underneath a garden bed purpose built by the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Work in progress. Image: supplied.

The 28-hectare gardens in East Tamworth are open Monday to Friday between 8am-5pm

NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water's First Nations Project Engagement Manager Warren Mayers said the items were carefully photographed, recorded and stored in a secure location in Sydney while we made plans for their return to Country.

"It was great to have constructive conversations with registered Aboriginal parties who all worked together collaboratively for the common goal of repatriating the artefacts as quickly as possible," he said.

"It is so important to keep connection to Country which is why we had to make sure these artefacts could be easily accessible and ensure that younger generations can visit the site to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

"As an Aboriginal man and a descendant of the Worimi people, I understand the importance of repatriating sacred objects like the ones we found at Dungowan because they are a vital part of our narrative and enable Aboriginal people to pay respect to their ancestors and celebrate our cultural heritage. This is why I encourage everyone to visit the site if they're in the area to celebrate Aboriginal culture and to learn about what was uncovered."

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