Single largest return of Torres Strait Islander remains
Arts Minister Simon Crean today welcomed the decision by the United Kingdom’s Natural History Museum to return to Australia 138 ancestral remains belonging to the Torres Strait Islander community.
The Australian Government actively supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to claim the return of their ancestral remains.
“This is the single largest return of Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains from an overseas collection and is a great result for the Torres Strait Islander people who have successfully pursued their case with the Natural History Museum,” Mr Crean said.
“The return of ancestral remains is extremely important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Australian Government is committed to assisting communities consult, plan and negotiate the repatriation of remains residing in overseas collections through the International Repatriation Program.
“The Australian Government recognises that repatriation is a key step towards restoring dignity and closing the gap between all Australians. I would like to thank the Natural History Museum for agreeing to return the ancestral remains to the Torres Strait Islander community.
“The Australian Labour Government’s preparation for this return of Torres Strait Islander remains began 18 months ago, firstly through a working group of traditional owners in the Torres Strait Island, and then through formal negotiations led by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
“I want to acknowledge the earlier work of my Cabinet colleague Jenny Macklin. We have been working actively to deliver this result. It is proof that persistence pays off,” Mr Crean said.
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the Gillard Government was committed to the unconditional return of Indigenous remains from overseas countries and institutions.
“We believe repatriation must be culturally appropriate, unconditional and inclusive of Indigenous aspirations,” Ms Macklin said.
Mr Crean also acknowledged the contribution made by the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Mr John Dauth AO LVO, in achieving this result.
The Museum, the Torres Strait Islander community and the Australian Government are now working together on how responsibility for the remains will be transferred.