18 July 2023

Bringing them home: ancestral remains to be returned to Cape for burial

| Matt Nicholls
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Dr Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung has led the way for the ancestral remains to be returned to the Cape.

Dr Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung has led the way for the ancestral remains to be returned to the Cape.

THE ancestral remains of two females from the Western Cape will be returned to Traditional Owners of the Weipa Peninsula after they were discovered in a Victorian museum.

Renowned anthropologist Donald Thomson collected the remains in the 1930s.

Their discovery in the Museum of Victoria was made by Napranum resident Dr Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung as she was completing her PhD.

She reached out to the museum and the remains were then put in the care of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council.

“It’s great that they are coming home and we get to lay these human remains back on Country,” she said.

“It’s significant for obvious reasons and the ancestors will hold an appropriate ceremony in due course.”

It’s expected the remains will return to the Weipa region in September.

Dr Wirrer-George Oochunyung said it was likely that more ancestral remains would also be returned to the region as research intensifies.

The return of the remains has been funded by the state government through a $4.6 million program over a five-year period.

“The return of these remains means the Weipa Peninsula people can finally fulfil their cultural and spiritual obligations to care for and bury their dead,” said Resources Minister Scott Stewart.

“The Palaszczuk Government will work with them, the Queensland Museum Network and our counterparts in Victoria to enable this to happen as soon as possible.

“I hope it provides a small amount of peace, knowing their loved ones are coming home.”

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Leeanne Enoch added: “I welcome the return of ancestral remains to the Weipa Peninsula people.

“Repatriation is fundamental to progressing our Path to Treaty and our journey to reconciliation, justice and healing.

“This new relationship will move forward with mutual respect, recognition and a willingness to speak the truth about our shared history.”

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