5 May 2003 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2013 - 9:01 AM

The largest collection of Aboriginal remains ever returned to their descendants has been handed over at a special ceremony in Canberra.

Representatives of South Australia's Ngarrindjeri community have received the remains of about 300 of their ancestors.

They were taken from their graves around the lower reaches of the River Murray during the 1890s.

They have been returned to Australia from a range of British institutions, including Edinburgh University and the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Ngarrindjeri elder Tom Trevorrow says, although the handover is special, a traditional smoking ceremony will be of greater spiritual importance.

"They've been take from us and from our lands.

"To get them back, we're grateful and thankful for that but very hurt, very disappointed, that it happened in the first place.

"We've been waiting a long time for this.

"And it's -- as we feel and as we believe -- it's a spiritual boost for the Ngarrindjeri people and for our lands and waters."

The remains will now travel to South Australia later this week and be interred on Ngerrindja land.