Repatriation of ancestors undoes old wrongs

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Two female ancestors were returned from Canada and Germany to their traditional family groups, their spirits to be returned to Country.
Repatriation of ancestors undoes old wrongs


Last week marked the return of Australian Aboriginal ancestors from Canada and Germany. Significantly, it was the first repatriation between Australia and Canada through the Australian Government's Indigenous Repatriation Program.

The remains of a female ancestor returned from a private collector based in Vancouver were handed to Tahn Donovan, a Wardandi woman from Western Australia, in a repatriation ceremony held In Ottawa (26 October).


At the request of the Wardandi people, the ancestor will be entrusted to the Western Australian Museum until the community is able to lay her to rest in her Traditional Homeland.

Representatives from the Department of Communications and the Arts have worked closely with the South West Boojarah Working Party, the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, the private collector, the Australian High Commission in Ottawa and the Western Australian Museum to facilitate the return of the ancestor to her community of origin.

Earlier in the week, a female Port Stewart ancestor was returned to a Lama Lama family group representative during another important repatriation in Germany (24 October).

The State Museum of Hannover hosted the ceremony, which included a representative from the Lama Lama family group, Lower Saxony State Government officials and the Australian Ambassador to Germany.

On return to Australia, Lama Lama family members will accompany their ancestor to Port Stewart, Queensland, where they will undertake ceremony to lay her spirit to rest on Country.

To date, the program has facilitated the return of 52 Australian Indigenous ancestral remains from Germany. More broadly, the program has returned more than 1400 ancestral remains and secret sacred objects from various international collections.

As at October 2017; Source the Australian Government's Indigenous Repatriation Program

‘The Government is committed to assisting Indigenous communities to pursue the unconditional return of ancestral remains held in overseas collections,’ said Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts, in a formal statement.

'They should have been left with their people, with their beliefs, with their practices in their soil and I want to say that we’re sorry,' said Dr June Jones, Birmingham University, United Kingdom, on the occasion of a previous repatriation under the program.

The Department of Communications and the Arts administers the Australian Government's Indigenous Repatriation Program.

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