March 29, 2006

More Aboriginal remains to return

Posted at 12:34 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Following the decision by the British Museum on the return of Aboriginal remains to Tasmania, it now appears that agreements have been reached in principle for a far greater number of Aboriginal artefacts to be returned from museums in Britain including Exeter, Bristol, Manchester, Tyne-and-Wear & the British Museum.

Sydney Morning Herald

Indigenous remains to come home from UK
March 28, 2006 – 4:40PM

The remains of indigenous Australians held in six British museums, often for 100 years and more, are to be returned home within months.

They will be repatriated under an historic agreement between Britain and Australia, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said.

The museums are at Exeter, Cornwall, Bristol, Manchester, Tyne-and-Wear as well as the British Museum in London.

The remains will return to Australia once consultations with indigenous communities were completed, Mr Brough said.

“It is a fitting outcome from more than 20 years of campaigning by indigenous Australians and many years of work by the Australian and British governments and by the British institutions which have held these remains often for more than 100 years,” he said in a statement.

“I want to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of Rodney Dillon, a Tasmanian Aboriginal leader, and other indigenous people, whose hard work has helped secure the return of these remains.”

British museums currently hold 40,000 Aboriginal artefacts and human remains, collected almost from the time of first colonisation for various reasons, including scientific research.

Some of the remains are the grandparents of people alive and indigenous communities have mounted campaigns for their repatriation.

Mr Brough said the government welcomed the British Museum’s recent announcement of its agreement to return remains of indigenous Tasmanians.

He said that was a positive sign that public museums were beginning to respond to the urgings of the Australian and British governments and prime ministers John Howard and Tony Blair.

In 2001, the British government established a working group on human remains in UK museum collections, which produced a comprehensive report confirming the value of returning remains to indigenous people.

It also passed the Human Tissues Act in 2004 which allows national museums to release remains where previously they were not permitted. A guide for the care of human remains in museums was published last year.

Mr Brough said during the same period, the Australian government had supported the British government and requested 21 museums to return indigenous remains.

He said Australia posted a repatriation projects officer at the Australian High Commission in London last year to assist these museums.

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