Aboriginal artefact stolen

By AAP with AG Staff 9 May 2011
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A rare Aboriginal artefact, a spear-thrower, has been stolen from the Melbourne Museum.

A RARE ABORIGINAL ARTEFACT, a spear-thrower from central Australia, has been stolen from the Melbourne Museum.

Detectives believe a man got into the Carlton museum between 1am and 3.30am on Saturday.

The burglar used a T-shirt taken from a dummy to disguise his face before entering the museum’s ground floor Bunjilaka gallery where he removed an Aboriginal spear-thrower from a glass display cabinet. He left the building with the artefact without alarms being activated.

The spear-thrower is made from mulga wood, with a design of carved circles and lines depicting waterholes, creeks and claypans in Pintupi country. It had been on loan to the museum for more than 20 years.

Museum robbery highly unusual

Senior constable Andrew White said police were notified of the theft on Saturday afternoon. He said there were no signs of forced entry or exit from the building but added museum staff were not being considered as part of the police investigation.

It is unclear whether the burglar knew what he was looking for.

“This is a very unusual thing to happen,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that the person who’s taken the artefact hasn’t realised [its] significant cultural importance.”

The burglar is described as a man approximately 180 centimetres tall, of slim build, wearing a dark-coloured top and jeans, and police are reviewing closed-circuit television for clues.

Museum Victoria chief executive Patrick Greene said he was worried that international-standard security had been breached. But, he stressed, security around the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition at the museum had not been compromised.

The spear-thrower was a unique object of great cultural and historical importance, he told reporters.

“It will be a gap in our collections until it returns,” he said. “We don’t own these objects. We hold them in trust for the whole of Australia, for both its Aboriginal population and non-Aboriginal.”

Anyone who sees the artefact is urged to contact police.