Great Seal of Norfolk Island Heist

 

Great Seal of Norfolk Island Heist

THE GREAT SEAL OF NORFOLK ISLAND – dates back to 1856:-

In 1844 Norfolk Island, which from its settlement in 1788 had been administered by the Government of the Colony of New South Wales, was annexed to the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land. Another constitutional change was made in the 1850s, when the Norfolk Island penal station was closed and the Pitcairn Islanders, who had outgrown the resources of their homeland, were transferred to Norfolk Island.

By an Act of the British Parliament passed in July 1855, followed by an order-in-council made on 24th June 1856, Norfolk Island was severed from Van Diemen’s Land and created ‘a distinct and separate Settlement’. The order-in-council provided that the island be administered by its own Governor, and the Governor of New South Wales for the time being was appointed Governor of Norfolk Island.

The order-in-council also contained a specific reference to the public seal of Norfolk Island, which was to be kept and used by the Governor, and this seal was made by Benjamin Wyon, the ‘Engraver of the Royal Seal of England’, and forwarded to the Island’s first Governor, Sir William Denison.

The text of the Royal Warrant dated 5th December 1856 granting the seal to Norfolk Island, taken from an original document in the Dixson Library, and quoted by permission of the trustees, reads:

‘Victoria R,

To Our trusty and Well beloved the Governor of Our Island called Norfolk Island Greeting.

With this you will receive a Seal prepared by Our Order for the use of Our Island called Norfolk Island. Our Will and Warrant authorizing the use of the Public Seal for the Colony of Norfolk Island. Our pleasure is, and We doe hereby authorize and direct, that the Said Seal be used in Sealing all public Instruments which shall be made and passed in Our name and for Our Service, in Our said Island. And so We bid you farewell. Given at Our Court at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, this Fifth Day of December in the Twentieth year of Our Reign.

By Her Majesty’s Command, Labouchere.’

Press Release – Norfolk Island 29 August 2022

To all members of the community.

This afternoon, the Museum Trust discovered that the Great Seal of Norfolk Island has been stolen from the Trust Collection at No.9 Quality Row.

The police have been informed.

This Great Seal is an important part of the identity and history of the Norfolk Island community.

We are asking for this important artefact to be safely returned.

Thank you.

Rhonda Griffiths

Chair – Norfolk Island Museum Trust

Great Seal heist: Queen Victoria’s gift to Norfolk Islanders stolen.

By James Valentine

Posted 6th Sep 2022

Descendants of HMS Bounty mutineers received the seal when handed the former prison colony.

The Great Seal of Norfolk Island was made in 1856 by royal engraver Benjamin Wyon when Queen Victoria made Norfolk Island a separate settlement.

When museum staff opened a supposedly secured container holding one of their most treasured items last Friday afternoon, they discovered the Great Seal of Norfolk Island had been stolen.

The brazen theft of an artefact symbolising Norfolk Island’s identity may have sparked a locked-room mystery in the South Pacific, but it has also exposed the struggle for the soul of a most storied island.

The Norfolk Island Museum Trust’s chair, Rhonda Griffiths, said in the days since the heist, her emotions had “gone from shock, horror and nausea to outrage”.

The sterling silver and ivory seal was taken off public display in late 2019 but was recently brought out of its secure and climate-controlled storage after a viewing request from a community member.

Griffiths said the seal was made in 1856 on the order of Queen Victoria, when she gave over the abandoned prison colony island to the Pitcairn Islanders, descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers who had outgrown the island upon which they had developed their own language and culture.

“This is a tangible object that recognises us as distinct and represents everything we believe in,” she said.

A member of the council of elders who can trace her lineage to the mutineers and their Tahitian wives, Griffiths said the theft was all the more upsetting given there was “very little the community actually owns”.

In 2015 the Australian government – from 1,900km away – abolished the island’s assembly, and it has since been subject to federal and New South Wales state laws. Last year, the Australian government also dismissed the Norfolk Island Regional Council, appointing an administrator for the next three years.

But whereas those were incursions from outsiders, Griffiths said she believed the seal was stolen by one of the 2,000 or so people who call Norfolk home.

“As well as our political institutions, we’ve had our archives and our health records all taken away under the dead of night, not knowing where they go,” she said.

“I think this is what has motivated this theft – we have to assume that this may have been an islander making a political statement.”

While Griffiths said she was “as frustrated as the next islander” about the political situation, the theft was “not achieving anything”.

Local business owner Brett Sanderson, of Pitcairn descent and a Norfolk Islander “through and through”, is among those frustrated by the takeover of the island.

Sanderson described the theft of the seal as “disgusting” and said he wanted to see the item returned.

But Sanderson was more riled by the loss of local autonomy of schools, facilities, and the museum itself.

“It is upsetting,” he said of the seal heist. “But what is more upsetting is the theft of the museums – they belong to the people of Norfolk Island.”

The museum is administered by Australia’s Department of Infrastructure.

“But a lot of the pieces [in its collection] came from Pitcairn, when our ancestors moved here in 1856,” Sanderson said. “So, who owns those items now, if the department has taken over museums?”

The department said the Great Seal was “an important part of the identity and history of the Norfolk Island community”.

“While the Imperial Seal has no legal or official use, the design on the artefact is frequently used as an emblem for Norfolk Island,” a department spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said security and access arrangements for the collections were being reviewed.

The Australian federal police, which services Norfolk Island, are investigating. They did not respond to questions about what punishment the culprit might receive on the once infamous penal colony should they be caught.

But Griffiths said she was only interested in returning the seal.

“I don’t care who’s got it, just ring me up and I’ll come and pick it up from anywhere,” she said.

“You’ve made your point. Now give it back.”

See the Guardian news article here : https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/31/great-seal-heist-queen-victorias-gift-to-norfolk-islanders-stolen-with-rebellious-motives-suspected

Credit: Bounty Museum

           : Norfolk Island Museum

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