20 Nov 2009

Australian museum defends Maori artefact purchase

11:24 am on 20 November 2009

The National Maritime Museum of Australia is defending its purchase of a Maori whalebone patu picked up during Captain Cook's second expedition to the Pacific.

Waatea News reports that it is one of three rare clubs known as the Omai relics collected in 1774 by Tobais Furneaux, captain of the Adventure.

They were bought from a private Australian collection with the help of a $100,000 grant from Australia's Arts Minister Peter Garrett.

Maritime Museum curator Nigel Erskine says it's legitimate the taonga be in Australia rather than New Zealand as in many cases it is known that such items were traded.

"For example with the Tongan clubs we have historical reference to trading going on with the European goods, beads, nails, iron axes, all of these things (were traded) for food and also for these ethnographic objects.

"Although we have no direct proof, there's no textual reference where it refers to the collecting of the patu, we believe that it was a similar sort of circumstance," he says.

Mr Erskine says the museum hopes the patu will open a door in Australia to Maori culture.