‘I couldn’t take it home to my people’: Kelly’s emotional moment

LOBBYING FOR RETURN: Bermagui's Rodney 'Murrum' Kelly holds a Gweagal spear inside a storage room at the Swedish Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm. Picture: Supplied
LOBBYING FOR RETURN: Bermagui's Rodney 'Murrum' Kelly holds a Gweagal spear inside a storage room at the Swedish Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm. Picture: Supplied

When Rodney “Murrum” Kelly walked into a storage room of the Swedish Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm he was overcome with a sense of joy.

However, the feeling quickly changed to sadness as he realised he had to leave a piece of his culture on a table over 15,000 kilometres from its Gweagal homeland.

Mr Kelly is about to return from his third trip to Europe to lobby for the return of artefacts claimed by the British in 1770, and now kept in museums across the continent.

“I was so happy because I knew I was about to hold the spear, and have a closer look, but I knew I had to walk away and leave the spear which was the hardest thing to do,” Mr Kelly said.

“My ancestor’s spear was right in front of me, and I couldn’t take it home to my people.”

In gripping a spear, the 39-year-old became the first member of the Gweagal clan to touch the artefact in almost 250 years.

During his time at the museum Mr Kelly was able to educate staff on everything surrounding the spear.

“The curator was nice, she had been working there for three weeks and was very interested in what I had to say about the spear. So they don't really know anything about it,” he said.

Mr Kelly is now looking into beginning the repatriation process with the museum.

“As I said to the curator, Sweden has the opportunity to do something great, and show the rest of the world how to have respect for the oldest surviving culture in the world, and just give the spear back,” he said.

“I really think if I can get the spear in Sweden returned it will force the UK museums to also return Gweagal artefacts. 

“I want to return again soon so I can explain to them why it's so important to return them.”

Rodeny Kelly in Sweden recently. Picture: Supplied

Rodeny Kelly in Sweden recently. Picture: Supplied

Mr Kelly also visited the British Museum, where his journey began last year, and took part in a Return The Relics Of Genocide protest at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, managing to discuss the issue the museum’s Nicholas Thomas.

“I think it's time for our governments to act, and when I get home that will be one of my priorities. It's time for them to start helping because the Gweagal artefacts are national treasures and belong home,” he said.