Native Australian, Traditional Elder of the Wamba Wamba Community
Chairperson of the Wiran Aboriginal Corporation.
Wiran Aboriginal Corporation
231 Campbell Street Swan Hill
Tel.: 50/330 666 - Fax.: 50/330 600 - Mobile: 0409 437 969
THE PROJECT TO RECOVER
THE REMAINS OF THE ANCESTORS
The Burial Ceremony means a lot of things both from a moral, cultural, political, legal and universal thing. We have repatriated, recovered and returned our esteemed Ancestors back to their country where they were taken by the colinizers from 1788 right up to the 1940's.
This emotionally charged Ceremony drives our People to exert our rights to country including the recovery of our Dead and our cultural heritage materials. Our cultural duty and obligations to our Ancestors through our traditions and customs remains unbroken and connects us absolutely to Country and to each other. We will continue to recover our Ancestors whether they be in museums or in private collections. We all have a spiritual, moral, cultural and politico-legal obligation to respect the Dead and everyone in the Community should support us in respecting our Ancestors as we do the non-Indigenous community. Traditional Owners throughout the Region will be organizing other reburials with other Groups over the next three months.
Human Remains of our Ancestors are sacrosanct and the trade in and collection of Human Remains and grave goods where there was no informed consent was repugnant to all Aboriginal Peoples and the civilized world. This place where our People are now buried is a sacred place that will be needed to be protected and preserved for all time. The Wamba Wamba Peoples will be seeking to address this legal strategy through the appropriate state or federal permanent protection laws.
We have had to recover the human remains of our men, our women, our children, our grandmothers from places like Scotland, England, Europe, the Americas and also Australia in terms of institutions like the Melbourne Museum, where we're sitting here right now, the Aboriginal Fairs Victoria Land of Proprietry which sits in Spencer Street Station in Melbourne here to places like Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Canberra.
We believe we have recovered most of the Wamba Wamba Ancestors although we still suspect that there are some in private collections. We encourage people to return them and contact us so that we can pick them up.
The meaning of the Ceremony was about connection to country, who we are within the universe, within our country. It's about going back to our country and exerting our rights and interests, to implement our traditions and customs and respect our dead and respect our living in particular. If you don't respect the dead you don't respect the living. And a lot of government policy probably doesn't respect the Aboriginal people of this country or try to get along with people, therefore, we have this conflict with government all the time. Our struggle is about land rights and making sure we get legislation to accommonate land right legislation.
The interesting thing about removal of human remains from our country is that it denies our existance because it removes the evidence and one of the symbols, one of the strongest symbols of your land ownership is where you bury your dead, there can be no mistake about it if you remove that evidence as has been done to us. We are the most dispossesed, dispersed, deculturalized group in Australia.
So this is the history of desecration and I think the Ceremony was a symbolic as well as a real thing for Aboriginal people that we have taken the time to reconnect with our past by recovering the human remains of our Ancestors and taking them home to the country.
It was a very emotional, spiritual thing as well as a physical thing; and it hurts us that we have to do that, that we have to work without our cultural materials.
Traditional Elder of the Wamba Wamba Community
Chairperson of the Wiran Aboriginal Corporation