The Melbourne Museum recently handed back the remains of four Aboriginal Victorians to their people and land of origin. An apology was extended by the museum to the Wadawurrung people who had been striving for more than 10 years now to retrieve the remains that included the bones of a 14-year old girl. A ceremony was conducted during the turn over.
Part of history
The remains of the Aboriginal Victorians had stayed in the shelves of Melbourne Museum for 80 years. More than a decade ago, the Wadawurrung people started to work on the return of their ancestors’ remains to their traditional lands. Bryon Powell, a Wadawurrung elder said if they did not make an effort to claim the remains, their community could not hold their heads up and that they could not say they are who they are. The elder added that the remains are part of their history and without them the tribe does not have anything.
According to Sean Fagan, a member of the Wadawurrung group, it was not easy conducting research about their ancestors. It was a difficult job but he said they had to do it, as without the remains, account of their history will not be complete. Fagan said the absence of the bones in their community caused a lot of anger and sadness because the fact that they were part of their heritage could not be changed. It seemed to be impossible at first to claim back what they rightfully owned but something must be done to make the return possible. Melbourne Museum has apologized for the distress that the claiming process caused the aboriginal group.
There are 45 more remains of Wadawurrung people that have been authenticated to be turned over but the procedure has yet to be formalized before the bones could be buried. Everything will be arranged in a few months after burial sites are located. There are 11 boxes containing the remains, some of them lodging in museums for more than 100 years. Reports say Melbourne Museum still has in its possession more than 1,000 sets of remains of indigenous Australians.
The Wadawurrung people are an indigenous tribe residing along the coast that stretches from Melbourne to Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. Being part of the Kulin alliance, they were also called Barrabool people by the Europeans. The Wadawurrungs had inhabited their ancestral lands for the last 25,000 years. There are 140 archaeological sites in the region, a sign that the aborigines indeed lived an active life in the area during these years. When Lieutenant John Murray charted the coastal area where the natives lived, he may have come in contact with the tribe. The succeeding surveys conducted in the area resulted to several aborigines being shot and wounded.
Respect for aborigines
The Australian government gives its all out support to reconciliation and unity with the aborigines of the land. In 1967 a reconciliation movement began with a referendum where 90% of Australians voted to take out the constitutional clauses that suggested discrimination against the native people of Australia.
Photo Credit: Australian Aborigine