Repatriation of ancestral remains

Indigenous elder dressed in traditional dress, holding a smoking bowl up in the air, with ATSI and Australian flags in the background


Ngarrindjeri elder Major Sumner AM, performs a smoking ceremony as part of the handover of thirteen Indigenous ancestral remains, at the Australian High Commission in London in October 2016. The repatriation of ancestors continues the story of cultural heritage, spirit and pride, and heralds the beginning of a healing process for communities as remains are returned to country.

We are supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to facilitate the return of ancestral remains from overseas collections, and the return of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects held in major Australian museums to their communities of origin. The Indigenous Repatriation Program identifies this as fundamental to promote respect and understanding of Indigenous cultures and keep culture, families and communities strong. Since 1990, the program has facilitated the safe return of over 1,300 Indigenous ancestral remains from overseas collections.

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