First contact 1770 and the Gweagal shield and spears

Saturday 4 June 2016

This event has passed


Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane (off Science Road)


In 1770, Rodney Kelly’s ancestor, Cooman, was shot in the leg by Captain Cook’s men at Botany Bay. As they fled from the shooting, Cooman and another man from the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal people dropped the shield and spears they were carrying.

What is the Gweagal Shield?
The Gweagal Shield is the shield taken by James Cook and his companions when they first stood on Australian soil at Botany Bay in 1770. As they approached the shore Cook and his crew were warned-off by two Gweagal men shaking spears at them and shouting.  ln the exchange that followed the shield’s owner, Cooman, was shot in the leg by Cook and ran for cover. The shield was then taken by Cook from where it was left.

Who are the Gweagal people?
The Gweagal are a clan ofthe Dhurawal Aboriginal people whose country covers the Southern shores of Botany Bay and extends out towards Liverpool in the West and towards the Shoalhaven in the South.

Why is this important?
ln Aboriginal cultural belief and practice all artefacts must be kept on the Country they came from. They always remain an integral part of the story of that Country. State laws covering Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales recognise this fact. It is very disrespectful to keep artefacts such as the Gweagal Shield away from their home.

Who is Rodney Kelly?
Rodney is a sixth generation descendant of the shield’s owner Cooman and is committed to seeing the shield returned to its home Country in Sydney.

Join us at the Macleay to hear Rodney Kelly talk on why he is travelling to the UK to request that the British Museum return these objects of Gweagal clan heritage to Dharawal lands in Sydney.

See our website,