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Vienna returns Indigenous remains to Australia

An Australian Government sponsored delegation of Indigenous people from the Kimberley region in Western Australia and Moreton Bay in Queensland will today take custody of 17 ancestral remains at a ceremony in Vienna, Austria.

The handover of the remains by the Pathology Museum and the Natural History Museum in Vienna is the result of an historic agreement between the Australian and Austrian Governments.

Today’s ceremony will include a traditional smoking ceremony performed by Kimberley men, Terry Murray and Tom Lawford to cleanse the remains in preparation for their journey home.

Another set of remains from the Goorenpul community of Moreton Bay, Queensland will be handed to community representative Jody Coghill.

A number of the remains are being brought back to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra where further examination will be undertaken to determine their origins.

The Government commends the Austrian Government, the Pathology Museum and the Natural History Museum in Vienna for recognising the great significance the return of these remains has for Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Government is committed to repatriating Indigenous remains held in museums overseas.

With more than one thousand Indigenous Australian ancestral remains held in museums around the world, there is obviously a long way to go to repatriate them all.

Even when institutions agree to relinquish remains, identifying them and tracing them back to particular country is a painstaking process.

But however time-consuming and complex, those institutions and individuals holding the remains in their collections have a responsibility to return them.

Since 1990, more than 1,150 Indigenous remains have been brought back to Australia.

We believe repatriation must be culturally appropriate, unconditional and inclusive of Indigenous aspirations and will continue to work with Indigenous people and overseas governments, museums and private collectors, to improve the process.

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