• The area around Fitzroy Crossing is prone to flooding. (FESA)
An old cemetery mainly consisting of Aboriginal people’s remains is slowly being excavated due to the ongoing erosion of the Fitzroy River in Western Australia’s top end.
By
Rangi Hirini

Source:
NITV News
26 Feb 2018 - 10:36 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2018 - 10:45 AM

More than 15 years after a white cemetery was relocated due to erosion, Aboriginal grave sites have been washed  away, while many remains are sitting in wooden boxes due to a dispute between locals and the State Government.

An estimated 50 skeletons have been boxed up and kept in a sea container as the digging along the bank of the Fitzroy River continues.

Last year, Fitzroy Crossing locals discovered bones just outside the site of an unmarked Aboriginal burial ground.

Over the last few months local Aboriginal people have been able to identify some of the remains.

However, the process has felt them distressed as they feel the spirits of those who have passed away are unable to rest.

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“If that happened anywhere else, I think it would have been done a lot quicker, because unfortunately we think there have been a few remains that have been washed away down the river and lost,” Neil Carter repatriations officer from the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre told the ABC.

Many locals are frustrated that the “white” cemetery was dug up and moved to dry land in 2001.

The Aboriginal burial ground adjacent was left on the eroding river bank of the Fitzroy River.

It was believed in the initial discovery of the bones last year, that an estimated 120 remains were at risk of being destroyed.

The West Australian government had funded a three month excavation, however Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre said only six remains were able to be identified before the funding ran out.

The excavation period has now wrapped up, but locals are calling on the government to invest more money into reburying those whose remains were discovered.

"I will not feel satisfied until we have finally reburied the remains up at the new cemetery, and have a proper burial ceremony," Mr Carter said.

"So we want to have a large ceremony inviting relatives of those people to commemorate that those remains have been saved from being washed away."

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However, the state government said there was enough money left over from the original excavation contract to cover the reburial.

Local men from the outback Kimberley town have built small wooden boxes to keep the remains in as a temporary measure. 

Those wooden boxes have been stored inside a sea container and felt outside on a block of land. 

Fitzroy Crossing is located 391 kilometres east of Broome and has a population of 1200 people, most of them being of Aboriginal decent.