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National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Collections

  • Dulcie Greeno collection no. 1(2)

    Shell necklace with pink button and opalescent green maireener feature shells, by Dulcie Greeno
    Shell necklace with opalescent green maireener and black cat's teeth feature shells, by Dulcie Greeno

    This collection consists of one necklace comprised of a strand of opalescent green maireener (rainbow kelp) shells, brown rice shells and black cats' teeth; and one necklace comprised of a strand of opalescent blue/green maireeners, brown and white rice shells and pink button shells. The necklaces were made by Dulcie Greeno, an elder of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The knowledge and skills of shell stringing was passed down through generations of her family - her grandmother and Aunties also made necklaces - and she is one of two elders regarded as senior custodians of the most significant cultural tradition of Palawa women.

    Dating back at least 2,600 years, necklace-making is one of the few Palawa traditions that has remained intact and has continued without interruption since before European settlement. Maireener necklaces were made as an adornment for ceremonies, as gifts, and as objects to be traded with other sea and land peoples for ochre and stone tools. After European settlement, they were also sold or exchanged for food, clothing and other supplies. Settlement influenced necklace-making itself, as the new tools and materials the women adapted into their practice also enabled the inclusion of new shells into their designs.

    The connection of maireeners with the distinct culture and story of the Palawa people and with the Tasmanian natural environment have conferred them iconic status in the wider Tasmanian and Australian community. As objects and a practice the necklaces in this collection represent a rich expression of contemporary Palawa women's identity, heritage and creativity, and both the maintenance and ongoing development of cultural traditions.