Lenah Valley man fined for trying to sell Aboriginal relics

Public servants have catfished a Lenah Valley man who was selling Aboriginal relics on Gumtree, resulting in the successful retrieval of the artifacts.

In the Hobart Magistrates Court on Thursday, Jake Raymond Cleaver, 37, entered guilty pleas to one count of duties of a person owning or finding a relic and two counts of protection of relics.

Cleaver does not identify as Aboriginal, but inherited 37 Aboriginal ‘stones’ from his late grandfather “a couple of years ago”.

It is not clear how his grandfather obtained the relics.

After talking to an antiques dealer about the legitimacy of the relics, Mr Cleaver was informed that the act of selling the stones would be encroaching on a “grey area”.

Despite this, Mr Cleaver opted to list 20 of the stones for sale on the buy-and-sell website Gumtree.

On July 5, 2017, Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department employees posed as a Gumtree user, inquiring with Cleaver as to where he had obtained the stones and arranged to meet with Cleaver at his home.

The stones were subsequently seized by investigators and were later examined by an archaeologist.

Of the 37 stones in Mr Cleaver’s possession, 17 were identified as originating from 1876 (the year Truganini died) or prior.

The other 20 stones were identified as relics, but could not be traced to before 1876.

If Cleaver had committed the offences six months later than July 2017, he would have faced harsher penalties under new state Aboriginal heritage legislation.

Magistrate Reg Marron said Cleaver’s offences were “serious”, but acknowledged his cooperation with authorities, early guilty pleas and demonstration of remorse.

Mr Marron said the case highlighted the “absolute importance” of safeguarding the state’s remaining Aboriginal relics.

Mr Cleaver was fined $850. 

A conviction was not recorded.