Ancestral remains taken in the 1930s to return home

Nick Gibbs |

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Leeanne Enoch hailed the move.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Leeanne Enoch hailed the move.

Ancestral remains taken by an anthropologist in the 1930s and now held by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council will be returned to the Weipa Peninsula people of north Queensland.

The state government is working with the community as well as the Queensland Museum Network and counterparts in Victoria to facilitate the return.

State Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Leeanne Enoch said the repatriation was “fundamental to progressing our Path to Treaty and our journey to reconciliation, justice and healing”.

The return of the remains meant the Weipa Peninsula people could finally fulfil their cultural and spiritual obligations to care for and bury their dead, Resources Minister Scott Stewart said.

“I hope it provides a small amount of peace, knowing that their loved ones are coming home,” he said.

The Queensland government committed $4 million to the repatriation of ancestral remains and sacred objects that belong to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the state.

 The remains are being returned at the request of the Weipa Peninsula people and the process coincides with recognition of native title rights for several Cape York communities.

The Weipa Peninsula people’s native title determination is one of four being held at two special hearings of the Federal Court in Cairns this week, with the Taepithiggi, Umpila and Central West Wik people all having their native title rights and interests recognised.

The determination is of “extremely great significance”, Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung from the Weipa Peninsula People Native Title Group said.

“It grants us a say around the table to be advised and consulted of activities that affect us and impacts on our lands,” she said on Wednesday.

Recognition of native title means “a step in the right direction of full and equal rights between the black man and the white man”, Douglas Ahlers from the Central West Wik Native Title Group said.

Joseph “J-Boy” Hobson from the Umpila Native Title Group said it would give him great pleasure to take his family back to Umpila Country.

“Future generations need to see that Country, so this is for every family in Umpila,” he said.

“Our totem, land and stories are important to us. Animals have stories, the rivers, oceans, and islands are important. To keep in good condition for future generations.”

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