• Six ancestors are repatriated to Wongatha country in Western Australia. (The Point)Source: The Point
Western Australia's Wongatha people welcome home the remains of six ancestors, nine hundred kilometres from Perth, which were removed to museums in Australia, Germany and England.
Craig Quartermaine

The Point
1 Jun 2016 - 5:56 PM  UPDATED 1 Jun 2016 - 6:00 PM

A ceremony commemorating the homecoming of six ancestors, who are hundreds of years old, to Mt Margaret or Wongatha country, nine hundred kilometres from Perth, was held on May 4.

It follows a five-year campaign started by Wongatha elder Aubrey Lynch for the return of the remains to Mt Margaret, which lies between Laverton and Leonora in the Northern Goldfields, from museums around the world.


Mr Lynch was at the Mt Margaret Mission in May to welcome them home from museums including the Australian Museum, Hancock Museum in the UK, and the Charite Medical Museum in Berlin.

“They were found in our area and we need to put them to rest, it's very important,” Aubrey Lynch told ‘The Point’.

“[A group] supported me and said, ‘whatever you say goes’ ."

The remains were taken to Melbourne before being shipped off to London for museum displays.

Local community development officer Patricia Ashwin has lived and worked around Mt Margaret her entire life. She told ‘The Point’ she is “fascinated” that the remains were dug up for the world to see.

"I didn't feel like that was right for our ancestors and our people," she says.

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The Museum of Western Australia played a crucial role in the return of bodies.

But curator Ross Chadwick, who was in charge of the museum’s repatriation effort, says his own museum had been holding one of the remains.

“But the other five have actually come back from other museums from around Australia, [and] two sets have in fact come back from overseas,” he says.

“It's been an ongoing part of the process to repatriate WA remains to Western Australia wherever possible."

Also aiding the process was the Western Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs including Bruce Smith, newly appointed to the department's Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee.

He says he advocates implementing protocol to protect remains.

"At the end of the day there is going to have to be some writing done in the future or now to see the things that are working [to protect] the values."

Aubrey Lynch agrees.

"This is my home, Mt Margaret,” he says.

“When I meet here as an Aboriginal leader, speaking about a lot of things that happened in the past, the old memories we use to have, I get really emotional."