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Bringing ancestors home to rest

Old fashioned world map

2017 saw the first repatriation of an Indigenous Australian’s ancestral remains from Canada, returning her to the Wardandi community in Western Australia. Facilitated by the Department of Communications and Arts, repatriation is a collaborative process. Since 1992, 1475 Indigenous ancestral remains have been returned from overseas.

This year also saw the first live stream of a repatriation ceremony at the State Museum of Hannover in Germany. This enabled Lama Lama family members, who are the traditional owners of lands extending for several hundred kilometres around Princess Charlotte Bay, Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, and the broader community to participate in the ceremony.

Through this technology, family located across Australia were able to share Indigenous traditional knowledge with their children, explaining the importance and meaning of bringing ancestors back to Country. “Bringing her home touches on our shared pain and our untold histories. For us, it is important that the past is set right for her and our ancestors. That she can finally come home to rest on Country,” said the Lama Lama Land Trust and Yintjingga Aboriginal Corporation, Queensland, after the ceremony.

Returning ancestors back to Country helps to promote healing, justice and reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Department is now working with Indigenous communities and institutions to facilitate returns from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany.

For more information visit the Department of Communications and the Arts website.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018