A saw returned

In March 2022 Barbara received a message from a friend. He had found an old sawfish saw in a local op shop in Cairns, and wanted her to know about it. As it turned out the saw was quite special, and the friend ended up donating the saw to SARA for research and education.

When he dropped the saw off, he told Barbara that Lisa Michl, the Artistic Director of UMI Arts in Cairns and a Kokoberrin woman from the Gulf of Carpentaria, and Shaun Edwards, a Kokoberrin artist, had identified the artwork on the saw as being from the Dick Roughsey era from Mornington Island.

Mornington Island is part of the Wellesley Island Group, in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. The donation of the saw happened at a time when Barbara was in touch with the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, which maintains Aboriginal Land and Sea Ranger groups in Normanton, Burketown (Gangalidda Garawa Rangers) and the Wellesley Island rangers on Mornington Island. Barbara forwarded images of the saw and received confirmation that the saw was likely painted by Dick Roughsey or his son.

As the contact was established, Barbara met Thomas Wilson, the senior head ranger of the Wellesley Island Aboriginal Land and Sea rangers from Mornington Island, in Cairns. Thomas was very happy to receive the saw, and said that it would be displayed in the local art centre on Mornington Island. He was also worried about sawfish, as locally on Mornington Island they are hardly ever seen anymore. They used to be quite common until about 20 years ago.

Everyone involved was really happy about the outcome. Thomas Wilson said that there are not many saws around anymore that are painted in this particular traditional style. The saw will be displayed together with an information poster regarding the biology of sawfish.

Barbara would like to thank her friend Hans, for recognising the importance of the saw and donating it, so that it could be returned to where it came form.