After 43 years, the remains of Australia's oldest human have finally returned to its ancestral homelands. The historic repatriation was celebrated in a cultural showcase of traditional song and dance.
20 Nov 2017 - 4:32 PM  UPDATED 20 Nov 2017 - 4:38 PM

Nestled on the banks of the Murray River, hundreds gathered to commemorate the return of Australia's oldest human.

The repatriation of Mungo Man, and about 100 other Aboriginal people, was celebrated with a cultural showcase of traditional song and dance in the north-western Victorian community of Mildura on Saturday.

Aboriginal dance groups from around the country took part in the Return to Country concert, each representing points of the compass, or a star of the Southern Cross.

Yolgnu dancers from the remote Galiwinku community on Elcho Island represented the North, the Tal-kin-jeri dancers from Murray Bridge in South Australia performed for Ngarrindjeri country, Nyoongar and Whadjak nations represented the West, and Yarrabah dancers in northern Queensland came from the East.

Local Mutthi Mutthi dancers represented the fifth star in the constellation. 

Ngarrindjeri Elder, Uncle Moogy Sumner, said it was important First Nations Peoples marked the occasion.

"Always bring your spirit, your culture with you. Last night I saw that, everyone coming together. The knowledge that we keep with us ... that’s what happened last night ... and there’s more to come,” he said. 

Mawalan Marika, Yolngu Elder and dance leader, said they traveled from Arnhem Land to pay their respects.

"I came here as respect for this old man," he said.

Errol Neal (Mulla), leader of the Yarrabah dancers, said the return of the ancestors will speak volumes in the fight for justice for Indigenous Australians.

“These things are very powerful. They’re our tool, our fight for freedom and dignity. We want everyone to be at peace, let’s get it right,” he said.

A special ceremony returning the 42,000-year-old remains of Mungo Man, and the other ancestors, was held on Friday at Lake Mungo, after a 43-year battle.

Legendary musician Archie Roach, who performed at Saturday's event, said the significance of the repatriation cannot go unnoticed.

"Mungo Man, the old fulla coming back, buried once again on country. It's taken 43 years. For him to come back home is an important occasion," he said.

Mr Roach traveled to Lake Mungo two years ago and was moved by the spiritual presence.

"When I feel things like that from country, and I feel the spirits, it just makes me feel like I'm connected no matter where I go. I had this connection from the old fullas, and was asked for respect, out of respect, that its okay to be here."

The Return to Country concert also featured performances from former X-Factor winner Isaiah Firebrace, Goanna front-man Shane Howard, and Mutthi Mutthi and Yorta Yorta performer Kutcha Edwards.

It was a poignant moment for Mr Edwards who is one of the modern descendants of Mungo Man.

"Mungo Man is my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather," he said.

"I thank old grandfather for teaching the world how long we as Aboriginal people have been here on this continent we now call Australia."

As Creative Director, Shane Howard, said it was a privilege to be part of the historic moment which provided a new beginning.

"It's time for a new conversation, its time for a new story, its time for a new start in this country, and to heal the hurt," he said.

Mildura Mayor, Mark Eckel, said marking the event is just the beginning.

“No place in Australia can be more significant to the true identity of our place in civilisation than here in Mildura, Wentworth, with the confluence of the Murray & Darling Rivers, Lake Mungo & The Willandra Lakes World Heritage Country. It's the Aboriginal birth right & for all of us a work in progress from this night forward to be 'The Keeping Place'.

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