• Berlin Repatriation Ceremony (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A repatriation ceremony has been held at the Australian Embassy in Berlin to respectfully acknowledge the unconditional return of three Indigenous ancestral remains.
Natalie Cromb

24 Mar 2017 - 4:43 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2017 - 8:44 AM

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield have today released a joint statement confirming that a repatriation ceremony has taken place in Berlin, Germany, overnight which marked Germany’s agreement to unconditionally return three Indigenous ancestral remains from the Clarence Valley in New South Wales.

Two ancestral remains were returned to community members and direct descendants from Indigenous communities located in Far North Queensland and the Clarence River region in New South Wales.

The Ministers confirmed that direct descendants received granddad Barry, King Ng:tja of the Ngadjon-Jii community and representatives from the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council and Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council received an ancestor on behalf of the two Land Councils as well as a third council from the Clarence River region, the Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council.

The delegation will also accompany the return of an unnamed ancestor to Australia so further provenance research can be undertaken to identify the community of origin.

Direct descendants, community members and representatives from the Local Aboriginal Lands Councils were present for the ceremony in Berlin and the government has announced it will support those in attendance as they accompany the ancestral remains and travel home to Australia.

In the joint statement, Minister Scullion and Minister Fifield stated:

“The Government welcomes the decisions by the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory and the Charité Medical University, Berlin, to facilitate the respectful return of the ancestral remains to descendants in Australia.

The Government is committed to working with and supporting Indigenous communities to pursue the unconditional return of their ancestral remains held in overseas collections and within Australia.”

Speaking to NITV the Chief Executive Officer of Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council, Noelene Capeen, said it is “good to know that the family, community and Lands Council representatives are now receiving the support of the government to bring our ancestors home. It has been a long time coming and means so much to the Clarence Valley community so we are very excited to see this repatriation.” She confirmed that this repatriation is so significant because there are ancestors of two mobs being returned.

Upon the arrival of the ancestral remains, Ms Capeen confirmed that the community would come together and plan a re-burial ceremony so that the ancestors can be laid to rest on country.

This will be the 51st repatriation from Germany since the Government’s Indigenous Repatriation Programme’s inception at the start of the 1990’s, with over 1400 ancestral remains being repatriated to Indigenous Communities in Australia from the rest of the world.