• Dr Lyndon Ormond-Parker is a researcher working with traditional owners to stop the online trade in human remains and artefacts. (NITV The Point)Source: NITV The Point
Researchers in Australia are working to stop the online trade in human remains, and return ancestors back to Country.
Karen Michelmore

The Point
5 Oct 2021 - 6:11 PM  UPDATED 8 Oct 2021 - 8:37 AM

Traditional Owners have been working with online giants like eBay to stamp out the trade in human remains and sacred artefacts.

Alyawarr man Dr Lyndon Ormond-Parker is leading a project of researchers from the Australian National University to help facilitate the return of remains from museums and private collections around the world back to Country.

The project is investigating the global trade in human remains and artefacts, which Dr Ormond-Parker said continues to this day.

"There are Facebook groups which actually trade in human remains, and so that trade is often under scrutiny, and Facebook is trying to shut those sorts of groups down," Dr Ormond-Parker told NITV's The Point program.

"But they also go under different guises when they are on Facebook and use code words for trading in human remains.

"We also see a lot of artefacts come up online on eBay, and often Traditional Owners will ask people like myself to try and work with people like eBay to take sacred objects off eBay for sale.

"eBay Australia has worked closely with Traditional Owners, once they are alerted to the fact that sacred objects are online, and will work with Traditional Owners to have those removed."

He urged people to report suspicious objects if they spot them for sale online.

"If something looks very suspicious, it might be a Aboriginal object or it might be referred to as being a sacred object from a particular community, the public can then try and contact a land council from the region where those objects have come from, or they can contact the Department of Arts," he said.

Calls for national standard to protect remains, artefacts

Dr Ormond-Parker called for a national standard for laws around the protection and repatriation of Aboriginal remains and sacred objects, which currently differ in each state.

The research project is working with Traditional Owners to develop a database of ancestral remains.

Work is underway towards developing a case for a national resting place in Canberra, for those whose Country is not known.

"Those remains are held at the National Museum of Australia in their storage tin shed at Mitchell and the Aboriginal community has said this is wholly inadequate," Dr Ormond-Parker said.

"While the National Museum of Australia cares for our ancestors there, in a very respectful and appropriate manner, we just believe that a tin shed in Mitchell is not good enough. 

"We've been calling for a national resting place for Canberra."

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