1 November 2013

The University of Cambridge introduced five Thursday Island students to a collection of Torres Strait artefacts this week.

The students, from the Waybeni Koey Ngurpay Mudh, (Tagai State College, Thursday Island) enjoyed their welcome from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology department of the University of Cambridge.

University staff introduced the students to the collection of Torres Strait artefacts collected by AC Haddon during his expedition to the Torres Strait in 1898.

In London, the students visited the British Museum storage facility and the Natural History Museum to view selected Torres Strait Island artefacts held in these collections. The official program finished at the Australian High Commission in London, where the High Commissioner, Mr Mike Rann and Deputy High Commissioner spent time with the students hearing of their amazing experiences throughout the week.

The students’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies teacher, Mrs Deb Belyea, travelled to the UK with them.

Ms Belyea said, "They gained so much from the experience and are still registering what they actually did and its huge significance.”

“This trip has opened the students’ eyes as to what lies out there in the big wide world, how our culture has been studied and interpreted in the past, and how the study of these artefacts have helped to shape their cultural awareness, take in what was happening in the historical context of when the artefacts were procured as well as how this shapes their/our identity," she said.

Image of one male and two females studying artefacts while wearing gloves.
Above: Students Stephen Yamashita and Tanisha Pabai, with Deb Belyea, holding a TSI artefact.

This exchange was part of the Indigenous Repatriation Program's commitment to the long-term development, training and mentorship of Indigenous peoples. It is a positive way to encourage dialogue about the repatriation of ancestral remains from overseas institutions.

Image of two women. One is showing the other a formation made of string using both of her hands.
Above: Amelia Mari showing Margaret Rishbeth (Haddon's granddaughter) string games played in the Torres Strait. Margaret had remembered these from her mother and grandfather.