Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Aboriginal ancestral remains returned to Australia

A special Handover Ceremony to mark the return of aboriginal ancestral remains from Brighton Museum to Australia has taken place at Australia House, London.

The ceremony on Oct.14, organised by the Australian High Commission, saw the ancestral remains returned to the Ngarrindjeri Community of South Australia, from whom historical information suggests they were taken. The remains were received at the ceremony by Mr Major Sumner, Elder and representative of the Ngarrindjeri Community. The ceremony was attended by Brighton & Hove Councillor Alan Robins and Director of the Royal Pavilion and Head of Museums and Arts, Janita Bagshawe.

The remains were originally donated to Brighton Museum by keen scientist and collector, Frederick William Lucas in November 1925. They were part of a large group of osteological and ethnographical items, most of which had been on loan to the Museum since September 1922.

The repatriation is part of an Australian Government programme to assist Indigenous communities in pursuing the unconditional return of ancestral remains held in overseas collections and within Australia. So far, more than 1,000 Indigenous Australian ancestral remains have been returned from the United Kingdom to Traditional Custodians with the support of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Repatriation Program.

The repatriation process for Brighton started in 2005 when the Australian Government requested the return of five Australian Aboriginal Ancestral Remains held by Royal Pavilion & Museums: four remains in the Natural History collection, and one in the World Art collection.

In September 2008, the then Culture, Recreation & Tourism Cabinet meeting of the city council agreed to return the Natural History remains. These were collected by Major Sumner and George Trevorrow, representatives of the Ngarrindjeri Community, on Friday 15 May 2009. The occasion was marked by a ceremony outside Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

In May 2009, the Full Cabinet of the city council agreed to return the World Art remains.

The council has received a Handover Certificate, a formal record of the transfer of the remains to the Ngarrindjeri Elders representing their community.

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