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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11257


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (16:30): I am delighted to have the opportunity tonight to speak on the adjournment about a very important historical matter for Australia's Indigenous people but also for the Australian population in general. This is the unfortunate situation, of the skull of Pemulwuy being in the British Natural History Museum in London.

Many members of the House might be unaware of the historical significance of the Aboriginal figure Pemulwuy. Pemulwuy was born in 1750 and he was executed in 1802 by the government of the colony of New South Wales. He was one of the very few early figures in Australian history who actually fought the British when the British first came to Australia. He was of the Eora tribe, and he was quite determined at that time that, rather than simply acquiesce to the colonisation of Sydney, he would make a stand on behalf of his people. He fought pitched battles against the British and he was extraordinarily successful. He invested the Governor's residence at Parramatta and invested it successfully. He broke the law, of course, that had been created in the time by the British Empire, and he paid the price, eventually being captured and decapitated. He is a very important figure in Australian history because he is an example of an Indigenous Australian standing up and fighting the British.

I am a part of the people who colonised Australia. My family came to South Australia in the 1850s, and Australia is the great country it is today largely because of the last 200-plus years of colonial history. We have moved on from those debates about invasion, Mabo and native title. I do not wish to debate those matters tonight. What I wish to say tonight is that it would be a very gracious act on the part of the British government to instruct the British Natural History Museum to return Pemulwuy's skull to where it belongs, Australia. There are few examples left where the remains of Indigenous Australians are outside Australia. One of them is the example of Pemulwuy.

I am pleased to say that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, when he was in Australia in 2010 at Redfern promised that he would help facilitate the return of Pemulwuy's skull to Australia. I will be writing to Prince William, inviting him to work with the team of Australians who are working to bring that skull back to where it belongs, in Australia.

Eric Willmot, who was the former Director-General of Education in South Australia and the ACT, wrote the book in 1987 Pemulwuy. He had heard the story from drovers and Aboriginal people when he was a rodeo rider and decided to write it. He wrote a very good book about Pemulwuy, and in doing so he put on the map a story that otherwise might not have been told. Eric Willmot still campaigns to bring Pemulwuy's skull home to Australia, and he has been joined by Alexander Hartman, who might be well known to many people in this place because he was one of the very first people appointed to the board of headspace. I appointed him to the board of headspace when I started headspace—the youth mental health initiative—in the Howard government.

Alex Hartman is leading a team of people in London from Australia who are trying to bring back the remains of Pemulwuy. I know that Prince William will work with Mr Hartman and Mr Willmot to ensure these remains are returned to Australia, where they belong. I think it would be an act that would be very much welcomed by Aboriginal people. I also note that Michael Mundine was one of the very first people that Prince William made this pledge to, and I know that Mr Hartman has been meeting this week with representatives of the British Natural History Museum. He has been assisted ably by our high commission in London, and I wish him the very best of luck with this quest.