Repatriation of Ancestral Remains

Museum Victoria recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural property, and through the Indigenous Repatriation Program gives priority to Ancestral Remains to Australian Indigenous communities. The Repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Property Policy (PDF, 49 kB), currently under review, outlines the principles under which the program operates.

The process of repatriation

If you have a query about Ancestral Remains from your country held by the museum, please contact:

Jamie Thomas
Senior Project Officer, Repatriation and Community Support
Telephone (03) 8341 7363

The Indigenous Repatriation Program assists Australian Indigenous communities to establish claims for the repatriation of Ancestral Remains, for the preparation and handover of Ancestral Remains, and makes a contribution towards costs for a reburial ceremony.

Community members can refer to the Procedures for making a claim to repatriate Australian Indigenous Ancestral Remains (PDF, 99 kB) to learn more about the process.

Ancestral Remains at Museum Victoria

The museum is an official repository for Ancestral Remains under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, 2006 (Victoria). As of April 2014, around 1650 Ancestral Remains are yet to claimed and returned to traditional/rightful owners in Australia for reburial.

Ancestral Remains are afforded careful respect and are held in a separate, secure store while held at our Melbourne Museum campus. Since the 1980s, our active program has seen the return of over 2000 Ancestral Remains to Indigenous communities within Australia and internationally.

What to do if you have Aboriginal remains

Do not post or bring Ancestral Remains to the museum.

The Indigenous Repatriation Program and the work of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria ensures that Ancestral Remains are returned for reburial back on country. It is important that members of the public who have any in their possession hand these over to the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, which is the responsible agency. Please contact:

Dr Mark Eccleston 
Manager: Heritage Operations, Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV)
Telephone 0429 460 720

To ensure that these Ancestral Remains can be reburied back on their own country, it is very important to provide as many details as possible about them, even if you feel it is not significant. The smallest detail can often be very informative.

If you do come across human remains in the landscape, contact your local police station immediately.

Last updated 28 April 2014

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The Indigenous Repatriation Program is supported by the Australian Government, through the Ministry for the Arts, Attorney General's Department.