Women from La Perouse have made shellwork for sale to Europeans for over a century. The craft, which continues today, was introduced by missionaries. Records show that by the 1880s Aboriginal women were selling shell baskets at Circular Quay and La Perouse. Today, women decorate a variety of contemporary tourist icons, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Although not a traditional Indigenous art form, the skill of shellworking has often been handed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter.
These objects are a significant record of the manner in which members of the La Perouse Aboriginal community have used art and craft activities to generate income since the late 1800s, often adapting traditional motifs or techniques for this new market. The Museum holds a number of items relating to the La Perouse Aboriginal community. This community was the first to be confronted with European invasion and material within this collection assists in documenting the social and cultural history of the region and its people.