Aboriginal remains to return from UK

A traditional ceremony has been held in London to mark the return of 13 Aboriginal ancestors. (AAP)

The return of the remains of 13 Aboriginal ancestors from UK museums and universities to Australia was marked with a traditional smoking ceremony in London.

A traditional smoking ceremony has been held in London to mark the return of the remains of 13 Aboriginal ancestors to Australia from British museums and universities.

Friday's ceremony at Australia House involved the signing over of 11 skulls from Birmingham and other remains from Brighton and Cambridge University to the Ngarrindjeri people in South Australia and Western Australia's Whadjuk community.

The ceremony, attended by former prime minister Julia Gillard, was conducted around the ancestors' boxed remains covered in Aboriginal flags.

Major Sumner of the Ngarrindjeri, in traditional dress and body paint, conducted the smoking ceremony with a chant to invite the ancestors' spirits to be part of the ceremony.

"I'm asking the negative energy ... that's been with them for a long time, I've asked that energy to go," he told the gathering.

"Our ancestors travel with us all the time, they'll travel with us when we go back home ... till we get back to our land and put them back where they come from."

Lui Ned David, the co-chair of Australia's Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation, said he was grateful an injustice was being resolved to go "toward healing of something that should never have happened".

Dr June Jones of Birmingham University said she wanted to "recognise the wrong that was done to the ancestors by taking them from their home in the first place".

"They should have been left with their people, with their beliefs, with their practices in their soil and I want to say that we're sorry".

Birmingham City Council deputy leader Ian Ward said his city recognised the importance of returning the remains "so that they are now able to finally rest in peace in their homeland".

Australia's High Commissioner in London, Alexander Downer, thanked the British institutions on behalf of the government for respecting indigenous Australian culture in repatriating the remains.

The Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation has arranged the return of the remains of more than 1000 indigenous people since it was set up in 2012.

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