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French agreement signed

Display Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum.  Photo: Meredith Foley

Shalailah Medhora, ‘French President signs agreement on return of Indigenous remains’, The Guardian, 19 November 2014

Expert committee to identify remains held in French museums and guide possible repatriation to Australia.

Indigenous remains held in French museums and public collections may be returned to Australia, after the governments of the two countries committed to a process of identification and consultation.

The announcement was made as Francois Hollande continues his post-G20 tour of Australia, the first state visit ever undertaken by a French president. He met with the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss the agreement.

A joint statement between Hollande and Abbott said: “The governments of the two countries will establish a joint expert committee to coordinate and determine the processes needed to identify and also to ascertain the origin of the Indigenous Australian human remains conserved in French public collections.

“The aim of the committee will be to propose and determine research aimed at identifying the origin of these human remains. The French government will then examine possible solutions to enable the return of the human remains in question to their communities of origin.”

It is estimated that about 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remains are held in museums around the world, with a further 10,000 remains in Australian public collections. The first international repatriation of remains to Australia occurred in 1990. Since then, 1,150 remains have been returned to descendants for burial or cremation.

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