Pioneering Indigenous Cultural Hub and Museum to be established  

[by Peter Hook]


Signing ceremony at the Lovedale site of the Wonnarua National Cultural Hub: (from left to right): Lee Hinton WNAC, Dr Jerry Schwartz who is donating the land, Michael Johnsen MP for the Upper Hunter, Laurie Perry WNAC, and Cessnock Mayor, Bob Pynsent. Image: supplied

Hunter Valley tourism and hotel entrepreneur, Dr Jerry Schwartz, will provide land in Cessnock for the construction of a cultural hub and museum celebrating the heritage of the local Wonnarua Indigenous community. 


The development is being facilitated by a $6.3 million grant from the NSW Government to the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation (WNAC), which was announced today by the NSW Government Member for the Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen MP. 


The Madoo Museum will house and showcase a rich collection of local Indigenous artefacts currently stored in various sites around the region. In addition, the renowned Morrison Collection – including canoes, stone axes, clubs, spears, boomerangs and hundreds of other artifacts from the Hunter Valley – will be relocated from the Australian Museum to the dedicated local site. 


Details of the plans and the funding were announced onsite this morning by Michael Johnsen MP, Dr Jerry Schwartz and WNAC CEO, Laurie Perry. 


Dr Schwartz Is also proposing to build a revolving art gallery called ‘Hart’s Art’ to house a major exhibition of paintings by artist Dan Hart depicting the plight of Aborigines in Australia.   


Dr Schwartz – who operates three hotels and a conference and events centre in the Hunter Valley/Newcastle region - is also working with Newcastle’s Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council to establish an Indigenous cultural centre in the restored Newcastle Post Office, which he acquired in 2018.    


Welcoming the funding from the NSW Government, Dr Schwartz said the initiative would help preserve the heritage of the Wonnarua people and provide an opportunity for the wider community to share and experience their culture. 


“From my discussions with Laurie Perry, the artefacts capture the heritage of the Wonnarua people, who are the original inhabitants of what is now known as the Hunter Valley,” said Dr Schwartz. 


“As well as being an important development to recognise Wonnarua heritage, we believe the Museum will become a focal point for cultural tourism. We envisage that the Museum and cultural centre will attract Indigenous, school and special interest groups to the region, and we will look to increase accommodation options at my Hunter Valley property to cater for them.” 


Dr Schwartz said that the cultural centre would include interactive participation through art shows, boomerang technique and a café focusing on bush tucker and indigenous produce.  


CEO of the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Laurie Perry, said that returning the Morrison Collection to the Hunter region was a massive outcome for the local Aboriginal population. 


The Collection is named after Singleton-born newspaper owner, Alexander Morrison, who collected over 120 Aboriginal cultural objects at the turn of the 20th century, many coming from the St Clair mission, where Wonnarua Aboriginal families lived at the time. 


One of the residents of St Clair was Sarah Madoo, who lived to 106, and was believed to be the oldest Aborigine in Australia when she passed-away in 1941. Sarah Madoo was Laurie Perry’s great-great grandmother. 


“This is a massive day for the Wonnarua Nation to have confirmation that the Morrison Collection will be coming home to the Hunter,” said Mr Perry. 


“The creation of the Madoo Museum Cultural Hub will not only honour our people’s heritage and culture, it will provide the opportunity to grow local Aboriginal tourism and employment.”  


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Yinjibarndi repatriation ceremony.jpg
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