Go to top of page

Repatriation of Australian Indigenous ancestors


Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield
Minister for the Arts

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion
Minister for Indigenous Affairs

The Turnbull Government welcomes the return of Australian Aboriginal ancestors from Canada and Germany this week.

After a moving ceremony overnight in Ottawa, a private collector returned the remains of a female ancestor to Tahn Donovan, a Wardandi woman from Western Australia, in a ceremony hosted by the Australian High Commissioner to Canada, H.E Tony Negus AO APM.

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.

Significantly, this is the first repatriation between Australia and Canada through the Australian Government's Indigenous Repatriation Program.

Earlier this week in Germany, a female ancestor was returned to a Lama Lama family group representative during another important repatriation.

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, H. E. Ms Lynette Wood.

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, including three ancestors earlier this year.

The Government acknowledges the efforts of collecting institutions and private collectors that have repatriated Australian Indigenous ancestral remains. The Government is committed to assisting Indigenous communities to pursue the unconditional return of ancestral remains held in overseas collections.

For more than 150 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains and secret sacred objects were removed from their communities for various reasons and placed in museums, universities and private collections in Australia and overseas. More than 1400 ancestral remains have been returned from overseas to Australia since the program began.

For more information about the program visit: www.arts.gov.au/repatriation.

Media contact:

Geraldine Mitchell | 0407 280 476 | Geraldine.Mitchell [at] communications.gov.au