Elders want breastplate back

Uncle David Kapeen, senior elder of the Kapeen family.
Uncle David Kapeen, senior elder of the Kapeen family. Jacklyn Wagner

TWO local Aboriginal elders are desperately trying to reclaim a treasured breastplate they believe was stolen from Lismore more than 50 years ago.

David Kapeen and Rosslyn Sten said they had "almost given up hope" of finding the family breastplate.

But it is due to be auctioned by Bonhams on November 20, and a potential buyer contacted The Northern Star after reading a story this newspaper ran in 2009 about Mrs Sten's search for the item.

The crescent-shaped copper breastplate is inscribed "Jack Kibbeen King of Wollongbar" and is also engraved with an Aboriginal warrior and a kangaroo, mounted in a presentation frame.

On its website, Bonhams estimates it could fetch between $3000 and $5000 at auction.

Mrs Sten and Mr Kapeen yesterday signed affidavits stating the breastplate belonged to their ancestor and was believed to have been stolen from the old Lismore museum (now the Richmond River Historical Society) more than 50 years ago.

"I thought we would never find it," Mrs Sten said.

"I'm even getting a replica made because I thought our family would never see it again.

"It's part of our history.

"This breastplate, it should come back to country. It belongs here.

"My mother and grandmother used to talk about it all the time just after it was stolen and it's something my family has always been very aware of.

"This is just a piece of metal; it has no monetary value.

"But it is something that is important to our culture and our history.

"It shows that our ancestor, Jack Kibbeen, was a very respected person.

"To us, it's absolutely devastating that we don't have this breastplate in our family."

Mr Kapeen turns 80 in a few weeks and said the return of the breastplate would be a great birthday present.

He said he first saw the breastplate in the old Lismore museum more than half a century ago.

"This breastplate means a lot to me," he said.

"I saw it when I was probably 15 or 16, and then after I got married I took my wife to the museum to show her.

"That was the last time I saw it."

Richmond Local Area Command crime manager Greg Moore said police were aware of the concerns of Mr Kapeen and Mrs Sten.

"Police are aware of the suspicions surrounding the authenticity of the background of the breastplate," he said.

"We understand that affidavits are being finalised."

Bonhams did not return calls from The Northern Star when contacted yesterday afternoon.

Topics:  auction

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Future of telecommunication

Kristy Sparrow from Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR).

Survey allows rural Australians to voice their concerns.

Taking a national stand

NO WAY: Students from Year 8 created 'No Way' bullying posters to show bullying has no place at Emerald State High school.

Local high school raises awareness against bullying.

Inland Port announced

ECONOMIC BOOST: Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd makes the funding announcement at the Central Highlands Development Corporation's Economic Futures Forum on Monday.

Ken O'Dowd announced federal funding for two major projects.

Local Partners