On 26 April the Charité University Hospital in Berlin returned the ancestral remains of 33 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their Traditional Owners. This was the first ever return of Australian Indigenous ancestral remains from a German institution and we hope it will send a positive signal to other universities, museums and similar institutions in Germany, many of which still hold ancestral remains.
This process of repatriation was assisted by Dr Hilary Howes, ANU Alumna, whose PhD research on Otto Finsch (and other 19th century German traveller-naturalists working in the region) “proved quite useful in clarifying some of the uncertainties surrounding the provenance of the ancestral remains.”
More information is available in a press release from the Charité University Hospital, in a feature in the Weekend Australian and in a short ABC TV News feature, which includes footage of the smoking ceremony conducted by representatives of South Australia’s Aboriginal peoples to welcome their ancestral remains back to country: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-04/aboriginal-bones-returned-to-south-australia/4669956. [ed: a feature article on repatriation of ancestral remains appeared in the New York Times on 24 May 2013]