Returning First Nations ancestors back to Country

The Australian Government continues to secure the return of Aboriginal ancestors to their rightful custodians – with six ancestors to be repatriated to Australia from the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony in Germany.

Five will be returned to the custodianship of their respective communities, the Gannagal, Awabakal, Worimi and Mutthi Mutthi peoples of New South Wales. Community representatives have travelled to Germany for the handover ceremony where they will receive their ancestors and accompany them on the long journey home.

One ancestor will be returned under the stewardship of the Australian Government, to be cared for, while research is undertaken  determine the Traditional Custodians.

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, said the Government’s ongoing support of international repatriation recognises that the return of ancestors is a basic right of our First Nations communities.

“The return of First Nations ancestors is some of the most important and respectful work a Government can do,” Minister Burke said.

“Bringing these ancestors home – where they belong – is part of our commitment to reconciliation, healing and justice for First Nations people.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney welcomed the repatriation, and said it represents an important step towards healing.

“The return of these ancestors to their Country, after more than a century of being away from home, is a significant step in acknowledging the injustices of the past,” Minister Burney said.

"To bring these ancestors home is critical for healing to occur - for people and Country.”

Over 155 ancestors have now been returned from Germany to Australia, and negotiations are ongoing for further returns.

Facilitating the international repatriation of ancestors is part of the Australian Government's commitment to upholding the principles of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For more information on Indigenous Repatriation, visit: