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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer


Boomerang featuring front halves of cow and horse in centre and geometric designs on arms


Boomerang featuring front halves of cow and horse in centre and geometric designs on arms

Object information

Physical description

A symmetrical, strongly-curved, dark timber boomerang incised with figurative and geometric designs. The front halves of a cow and horse feature in the centre and an eight-pointed stylised star design features between them. Both arms of the boomerang are incised with three parallel bands featuring weave, eight-pointed star, and X-shaped designs. The posterior is incised with a horizontal band of weave design across the middle and a border of three parallel stripes along the edges. The ends are pointed and the bottom centre of the posterior surface is chipped.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of eighty one decorated objects including boomerangs, clubs, scrimshaw, stock whip handles, shields and walking sticks. The majority of the objects are associated with Aboriginal missions during the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, in particular the Barambah/ Cherbourg mission (QLD), La Perouse (NSW), Palm Island (QLD), and Lake Tyers (VIC). Various locations in South Australia are also included.

From the late nineteenth century Aboriginal people in Eastern Australia created a range of artefacts decorated with incised, carved, painted and pokerworked motifs, which documented their experiences of interaction with European settlers. 'Non-traditional' designs emerged which were specific to individual missions - such as the cross hatching and playing card iconography characteristic of Cherbourg and the incised flora and fauna motifs characteristic of La Perouse. Many of the objects in this collection reflect these new designs, and depict the changing circumstances brought about by European settlement as well as continuing links to land and traditional cultural practices. When used as trade items, these objects quickly became sought after, and as production increased they found a market as tourist souvenirs. This collection brings together a range of such objects from several key sites, including two of the most important east coast mission stations, Cherbourg and La Perouse. It also includes a number of hybrid objects, such as a tin yandi and a nail club, which combine tradition forms and functions with non-traditional materials. This collection is significant for including types of objects not well represented in existing museum collections, and for representing the range of objects being made by Indigenous people in Eastern Australia during this period, particular those living on missions.

Object information

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