Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

UK university to return Indigenous remains

One of the United Kingdom’s top institutions, the University of Oxford, has agreed to return the remains of three Indigenous Australians, obtained in the 1860s.

These remains originated from Goolwa or Port Elliot in South Australia, an area in the heart of Ngarrindjeri traditional country.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said these are the first Australian Indigenous remains to be returned from this institution, more than one hundred years after leaving our shores.

“Most of us can only begin to imagine how the grandchildren and great-grandchildren must be feeling, knowing that after such a long time they will soon be able to lay their ancestors to rest,” Ms Macklin said.

“The Australian Government welcomes the University of Oxford’s decision to return the remains and is committed to ensuring all Indigenous remains are returned from overseas.”

“The Ngarrindjeri people acknowledge the respect that Oxford University had shown by its decision to repatriate the Old People back home to their traditional lands from where they were wrongfully taken and removed overseas,” said Ngarrindjeri Land and Progress Association Chairperson Tom Trevorrow.

“The Ngarrindjeri people hope that other institutions will accept their own responsibility and follow this example.”

On arrival in Australia, the Ngarrindjeri community will care for the remains of the Old People at the Camp Coorong Keeping Place until reburial can be arranged, according to Ngarrindjeri cultural practices.

In March 2005 the Australian Government wrote to the University of Oxford requesting it return all Australian Indigenous human remains held in its collections.

A Ngarrindjeri delegation visited the UK in July 2008 to begin discussions about the return of these Old People.

The Government will continue to work closely with the Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee to develop a repatriation plan for all Ngarrindjeri remains held in the UK.

The Australian Government is currently negotiating the repatriation of Indigenous remains with a number of countries and is providing funding for domestic and overseas repatriation programs