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World News: ‘Cold and alone’: After 130 years away, six ancestors head home – WhatsNew2Day

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The Australian remains are among thousands of scalps, shrunken heads, mummies, bone flutes and other human remains in German anthropological museums and university collections.

Many ended up on the other side of the world courtesy of tomb raiders who sold them to explorers and “race researchers” in the 19th century.

Members of the Indigenous Peoples delegation and officials at the ceremony in Leipzig. Credit:

Australian Embassy, ​​Berlin

Between 1876 and 1902, they were purchased and donated to the Royal Zoological and Anthropological-Ethnographic Museum, predecessor of the Dresden Museum of Ethnology, which is part of the Saxon State Ethnographic Collections.

In 2019, the culture ministers of Germany’s 16 states identified the return of human remains as a priority and set new guidelines on the handling of objects taken from former colonies.

Since 2013, German collecting institutions have returned 155 ancestors to Australia. This is the third group of the State Ethnographic Collections. He returned 38 ancestors in April 2019 and 45 in November of that same year.

More than 1,650 ancestors, mainly from Britain, have been returned to Australia from institutions and private collections in nine countries since 1990.

A traditional smoking ceremony is held in Leipzig, which has purifying properties and the ability to ward off evil spirits from people and land and pave the way for a better future.

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Credit:Australian Embassy, ​​Berlin

Nathan Moran, chief executive of the Sydney-based Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and a man from Biripi Dhungutti Goori, said the repatriation was the “closing of a sorry deal”.

“We were not treated as human beings. We were never respected as equals,” she said. “It provides closure and allows us to heal and, more importantly, feel like human beings.”


Marion Ackermann, director general of the Dresden State Art Collections, said the return was critical to the process of reconciliation in the face of colonial transgressions. In Germany, after the horrors of the early 20th century, this crime has an extra resonance.

“Receiving the descendants of the deceased at the museum allows us to help shape a process of healing and repairing relationships marked for a long time by colonial violence,” he said.

“We pledge that the last deceased in the Saxon ethnological museums will be able to return to Australia if their descendants so wish.”

Susan Templeman, Federal Labor MP for New South Wales and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Special Envoy for the Arts, accompanied the group to Germany. She says the severing of cultural ties had created “deep and ongoing pain.”

“In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the remains of many First Nations Australians were separated from their country and sent to museum collections abroad,” he said. “By bringing these ancestors home, we strive to show them the dignity and respect they were denied by being taken out of the country.”

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