A moving repatriation ceremony was held at the National Museum of Australia today to mark the official handover of ancestors to Kaurna Elders Jeffrey Newchurch and Merle Simpson.

29 July 2019

In March this year, the Government welcomed the return of 37 South Australian ancestors from the Natural History Museum in London.

At the request of the Kaurna community, 6 of these old people went into temporary care at the National Museum of Australia while plans were made for their return to Country.

‘I have been working for many years on the return of Kaurna old people and one day I hope all ancestral remains of Kaurna old people will be returned to Country,’ said Kaurna Elder Jeffrey Newchurch. ‘This is how we heal together and as a community.’

Madge Wanganeen said today’s ceremony was a milestone. ‘It has been 20 years of hard work to bring our people home,’ Madge said.

‘Today has brought us together and opened a lot of doors for our young people to walk through.’

Clem Newchurch said it was an historic day, tinged with emotion. ‘It’s an honour and privilege to come along and be part of it,’ Clem said. ‘I have mixed feelings, happiness and sadness. Our ancestors should not have been disturbed in the first place. We are taking our people back to their rightful place.’

The Kaurna representatives will accompany the old people to Adelaide, where the ancestors will be laid to rest at Holdfast Bay, along with 5 Kaurna old people repatriated from the South Australian Museum.

Through the Indigenous Repatriation Program, the Government helps communities to pursue the unconditional return of their ancestors held in overseas collections and with private holders, promoting healing and reconciliation.

To date, the program has facilitated the return of more than 1570 ancestors, including 1265 ancestors from the United Kingdom. Domestically, the program has facilitated the return of over 2,500 ancestral remains to the custodianship of their community of origin.

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