Baradine Repatriation of Carved Tree (Dendroglyph)

A carved burial tree was returned to traditional owners at a ceremony at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Centre, Melbourne Museum on the 13 April 2010.

Group of four men looking into a box with a carving in it.
(L-R): Uncle Peter Peckham (Wiradjuri); Christian Hampson (Maneroo); Uncle Merv Sutherland (Gamilaroi); Uncle Ronald Magann (Gamilaroi)

A carved tree, or dendroglyph, has been repatriated to the traditional owners of Baradine, the Gamilaroi Nation, in moving ceremonies held at both Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum and in Baradine, NSW.

The carved tree is historically associated with the burials of five named Aboriginal men, and was acquired by Museums Victoria in 1921 through an exchange with the Australian Museum in Sydney.

The tree was carved in 1876 and its provenance has been securely linked to the original burial site of the five men. Museum Victoria’s Indigenous Cultures Department worked with the Gamilaroi traditional owners over two years to confirm the cultural significance of the carved tree. 

Part of the Baradine repatriation ceremony

John Duggan, Assistant Collection Manager in the Indigenous Cultures Department, played a pivotal role in the tree's return, which was an important and emotional experience for him.

"Tears were shed and emotions were heartfelt both here at the museum and in Baradine. Many communities across NSW still view carved trees as culturally significant. They act like reminders, and are surviving remnants of our unique and prosperous past" John Duggan

John said that many non-Indigenous people from the Baradine area also attended the repatriation ceremony, including the farming family who own the property where the tree once stood.

The tree is now on display at the Bardine Local Aboriginal Land Council office alongside other artefacts.

Part of the Baradine repatriation ceremony
Baradine Repatriation of Carved Tree
Baradine Repatriation of Carved Tree at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum

See more image galleries of past repatriation ceremonies


Connect with Museums Victoria

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest news about our exhibitions, special events, programs and offers.