Local Indigenous representatives have raised serious concerns about the Madoo Museum project

CULTURAL HUB: An architect's perspective of how the planned Madoo Museum in wine country could look. Picture: Julian Brenchley, Group Architects.
CULTURAL HUB: An architect's perspective of how the planned Madoo Museum in wine country could look. Picture: Julian Brenchley, Group Architects.

In October 2020 it was announced that a cultural hub and museum celebrating the heritage of the local Wonnarua Indigenous community was to be built on private land at Lovedale near Cessnock.

Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation (WNAC) was to receive a $6.279 million grant from the NSW Government to facilitate the development, which will be built on land provided by Hunter Valley tourism and hotel entrepreneur Dr Jerry Schwartz.

To be known as the Madoo Museum it was to house a collection of local Indigenous artefacts currently stored in various offices around the region.

At the time of the official announcement it was stated the Morrison Collection - including canoes, stone axes, clubs, spears, boomerangs and hundreds of other artefacts from the Hunter Valley - will be relocated from the Australian Museum to the dedicated local site on Wills Hill Road (near Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, which is owned by Dr Schwartz).

However, following the release of this statement and the publicity surrounding the development of the museum on private land and the relocation of artefacts contained in the Morrison Collection other local Indigenous representatives have raised serious concerns about the entire project.

Among those to raise concerns is Plains Clans Wonnaurua People (PCWP) spokesman Scott Franks who said there had been 'absolutely no consultation' with his Wonnarua representative group on the project and he was concerned about the development taking place on privately owned land.

"The first we heard about this project was when a journalist contacted me to get a comment," Mr Franks said.

"To relocate any part of the Morrison Collection would require consultation with the various indigenous groups from where the artefacts come from not just Wonnarua but also Guringai and Awabakal among others.

"This has not happened and we also question if a facility is to be built why not build it on Wonnarua community owned land."

Laura McBride, director, First Nations at the Australian Museum said The Australian Museum has been in discussions regarding a potential long-term loan of select objects from The Morrison Collection to be displayed at the future Madoo Museum Cultural Hub.

"A large part of this collection consists of wooden objects linked to the St Clair Mission near Singleton, which remain significant to the traditional owners in the Hunter Valley area. The Australian Museum will work with stakeholder groups in the region to adhere to loan procedures including a consultation phase as part of this process."

A spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW said the Government has committed $6.279 million toward the Madoo Museum Cultural Hub project, which will deliver several new facilities and amenities, including the construction of a museum on private land.

"$4.8 million of the total amount committed has been allocated to the project in the 2021-22 financial year," they said. "The Department of Regional NSW is working closely with Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation representatives to deliver the Madoo Museum Cultural Hub project.

"Discussions regarding the Morrison collection are ongoing."

Comment has been sought from Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation (WNAC).