The Wadawurrung people of Victoria have reclaimed and repatriated the remains of four of their ancestors during a traditional ceremony of both sorrow and celebration.
The ceremony signified the repatriation of 79 Wadawurrung people, including a 14 year old girl.
Chairperson of the Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation, Brian Powell, says it is important for these events to follow traditional Aboriginal proceedings.
“The smoking ceremony is held whenever there is a burial, whenever there is a special event to ensure that the event that you’re doing, and in this case the handover of the remains, is done in a respectful way and we're not taking bad spirits, bad Karma with us and with the old people,” says Mr Powell.
Some of the remains have been stored at the Museum of Victoria for more than 100 years, so while the day was seen as a celebration, it was also one of sorrow.
“Sorrow that it has taken so long, sorrow that our ancestors have been sitting in cardboard boxes in museum shelves and now they're coming home,” says Mr Powell.
The repatriation has taken 15 years of research and negotiation, but the Museum of Victoria says having the remains formerly identified and returned under traditional custom is worth the effort.
“We have understood for a long time that the practices of the past were very hurtful, that removing people from their graves was the wrong thing to do, and we needed to find a way of righting that wrong,” says CEO of the Museum of Victoria, Patrick Greene.
There are still more than 800 ancestors waiting to be identified for their journey home.