The Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania has expressed concern at an apparent delay in the repatriation of ancient West Coast rock carvings that remain in the collection of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.
In December, the ALCT received confirmation that the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery board had agreed to return the Preminghana petroglyphs to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.
The rock carving fragment stands at about six-foot in height, and was removed in the 1960s. It forms part of a 20-kilometre network of carvings in the area that give insight into stories, totems, warriors, camps and roads spanning thousands of years.
Last week, the ALCT received a letter from TMAG stating that it "wishes to consult with Aboriginal community organisations and individuals", but that this had become impossible due to COVID-19.
Chairperson Michael Mansell said the Aboriginal community had encountered delays in the past when attempting to receive the remains of Truganini and the remains from the Crowther collection, and he feared the same was happening with the Preminghana petroglyphs.
"When they don't want to give up something, they just sit it out, they go to consultation, they go to an advisory body, they find whatever reason or hurdle they can to put in the way," Mr Mansell said.
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"We know from experts in Queensland that these types of repatriations are still regularly done, but they do cost a lot of money.
"If they could find the money in the 60s to take them, they could find the money now to bring them back."
TMAG offered to discuss the matter with the ALCT either by phone or virtually.
Mr Mansell called on the state government to pass legislation that would force the museums to return the rock carvings.
Arts Minister Elise Archer said the process under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 required "consulting with Aboriginal community organisations and individuals".
"TMAG is making arrangements to progress with these discussions, working within the current COVID-19 pandemic guidelines," she said.
City of Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said they had held meetings with the QVMAG Aboriginal Reference Group, the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation and the ALCT, a process which it believed would "determine the best outcome" for the repatriation.