Across our broad Victorian community and Cultures, the respect accorded to our Ancestors is recognised and mourned when it is not accorded. In the revelations of disrespect to Ancestors at Mildura's Nichols Point and Murray Pines cemeteries, Council acknowledges the community’s distress.
This distress is familiar to Aboriginal People and is well known to the Aboriginal Peoples of Mildura. The significant burial sites around Mildura are still being disturbed through non-Traditional Owner pursuit of leisure activities around the Murray, climate change and lack of resourcing to Traditional Owners to manage their sites.
The colonial need to categorise and catalogue, to impose a scientific knowledge to the Peoples and Country of Australia, has impacted profoundly on Aboriginal Peoples. Taken from their graves, Ancestors still sit in boxes in Museums around the world.
Council has both cultural and statutory responsibilities for Ancestral Remains in Victoria and believes that the return of Ancestors to Country, and the safekeeping of their Traditional Owners, is essential to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities. In the words of former Chairperson, Aunty Eleanor A Bourke, “we will not be well until this is done.”
We ask you, the Victorian community, to harness your distress at what has happened at the Mildura Nichols Point and Murray Pines cemeteries. Work with us, Aboriginal Peoples and the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, to stop the continuation of this happening to our Ancestors.
By museums and collectors returning Ancestral Remains to their living people we, as their descendants, can continue religious beliefs surrounding the living Spirit and their resting places. Without resting, their spirit is unable to be free. It is captured in darkness and cannot continue to its dreaming. There is a cycle for everyone and everything, including the human spirit, and when the cycle is incomplete or interfered with there are consequences.
For all people, when they are not allowed to rest in their original state after going through a funeral ceremony, their spirit cannot remain in the light and continue its journey. Their family, left behind, cannot rest when their loved one’s remains are not in place. The flow on effect is enormous for Aboriginal People however, by repatriating their remains to rest, we can reset time and space in this world to allow spirit to continue its original journey thus continuing the cycle.
In helping us keep our Ancestors safe and returned to Country, the whole community can start healing.
Reviewed 23 June 2021