The Australian Government has supported the return of over 1600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors from overseas institutions and private collectors for over 30 years.

The repatriation of Australian Indigenous ancestors helps to promote healing, justice and reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Islander ancestors return home from the United States of America

July 2022—United States of America

In a handover ceremony hosted by the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Two ancestors were returned to representatives from Narungga Nation of Yorke Peninsula, South Australia; Kaurna Nation, Adelaide, South Australia and 23 ancestors were returned under the stewardship of the Australian Government.

Representatives from Narungga and Kaurna Nations received their respective ancestors and accompanied them home. They will be held in temporary care until to communities are ready to return them to Country. Douglas Milera commented that “My Narungga Community continues to mourn the devastating loss of our ancestors who were taken from their homelands and this repatriation is vital for our Community to now start the healing process of bringing them home and for our ancestors’ spirits to rest in peace on Country.” This sentiment was echoed by Allan Sumner who said “The repatriation process involves both Aboriginal people and the institutions who wrongfully took our old people away. This is an opportunity to recognise the wrongs of the past and unite together in the spirit of reconciliation. But more importantly to come together to honour the spirits of the ancestors who are now coming home.”

Representatives of the Australian Government accompanied the 23 ancestors home where they will be placed in temporary care while further provenance research will be undertaken to identify their traditional custodians. The Department is continuing to progress discussions with other institutions in the United States of America to facilitate further returns.

Media Release—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors to return home