WTSTW 2020: The Gweagal Shield

Classes, Lessons, Workshops and Talks

7 May 2020

Maria Nugent reveals the fascinating story of a single object that bares silent witness to the violent encounter in 1770 at Botany Bay.

Violence marred the encounter between the British and Gweagal at Kamay (Botany Bay) in 1770. Approaching the shore, Lieutenant James Cook shot at two indigenous men. Although wounded, one man went to retrieve a shield to defend himself. By the time he returned, the sailors had scrambled ashore.

Two hundred years later, around Cook’s 1970 bicentenary, an undocumented shield fitting this description was located in the British Museum. Since then, it has been mobilised for various kinds of public storytelling – exhibitions, radio programs, journalism, documentaries, repatriation claims, and books — about the 1770 encounter and its legacies. Recently, though, its provenance as that shield, the one used defensively against Cook, has been questioned.

This talk retraces the shield’s story — teasing out its meanings in the original encounter in 1770 and the trajectories of its material analogue entangled in the fraught politics of that encounter’s history and symbolism.


Bar Cafe Carpark Caters for hearing impairment Caters for limited mobility Lockers Non Smoking Public Toilet Restaurant Wheelchair access


Free Entry

Event Times

7 May 2020

Once Only Event


Kambri Cultural Centre

University Avenue, Building 153, Canberra, 2601

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