Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Indigenous Remains

Rachael Hocking, More Indigenous remains being returned home, SBS News, 24 November 2015

November marked the return of another collection of Indigenous remains from Britain, this time to the Dunghutti people of northern New South Wales.

The remains will be in the temporary care of the Australian Museum in Sydney before making the trip to their final resting place.

Rachael Hocking has the story.

It was a simple ceremony at the entrance to the Australian Museum.

An elder smoked gum leaves onto a box cloaked in an Aboriginal flag.

Inside the box were ancient remains that could be 2,000 years old.

They belong to an ancestor of Dunghutti elder Kenneth Dickson.

“I’m grateful to be able to express the concerns of what this means to Aboriginal people through the culture and spirituality, and I think a lot of other communities will appreciate the same when their ancestors’ remains are brought home from all parts of Europe.”

A smoking ceremony is intended to cleanse the remains of any evil they have carried since they were taken from their traditional country — in this case, more than 50 years ago.

The Australian Museum’s Phil Gordon says it is a process that should not have to happen.

“Because people are breaking the law by taking ancestral remains. Even in the past, there were laws that prohibited the taking of Aboriginal remains away. Doctors took them away, physical anthropologists (did) to study, people just wanted to collect remains.”

Phil Gordon says it creates mixed feelings for the Aboriginal people they are taken from.

“There’s usually a whole range of different emotions. First, anger, of course. I mean, ‘Why were these remains taken? Why didn’t we know about these remains?’ And then, in most cases, gratitude that the remains are being returned.”

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