Returning our Ancestors: Racquel Buis-Kerr

My name is Racquel Kerr, I am a Dja Dja woman and Wonthanga means to come with purpose, and we are on Dja Dja Wurrung country.

To talk about the importance of returning our ancestors on to country means that we grave down to the foundation of our identity who we are and our belonging and in Dja culture we see everything has spirit regardless whether it is an animal object or human.

In order for us to understand why it is so important to return our ancestors means that we have to understand who we are as people and our connection to country.

Our connection to the country is something that cannot be explained in human words but rather by emotion we see everything around us that has a spirit and it talks to us and it calls to us back to country.

There was an instance in 2018 where I worked with Beechworth museum to bring back some objects that had been taken from Dja Dja Country by a gentleman by the name of Harry Jones and they went over to Paris exhibition in 1788. The purpose of them going there was to not celebrate our continuous survival culture below 60, 000 years but to demonstrate how committed we were and how novel we were to more involved society, as people put it.

When I went to Beechworth I spent 4 days to Kelly’s holdings with working with these objects and the first thing that I did was pick them up and tell them that they were coming home and you could feel it the spirit, we see everything on country is that a spirit, the spirit within these objects have been calling to home for so long that you could feel them just breathe a sigh relief, imagine what would have happened if we got to do that for our ancestors a part of that collection was 3 sets of ancestors remains in Paris and they still calling to come home. It is so important for us to know if we want to heal ourselves as a people, that you can heal from the past from doing that have happened to celebrate in a fact that we are here we are placed on country for a reason.

It has a purpose on Country for reason and being able to do things like that should be celebrated by everybody. If somebody’s grandma was kinda hiding in a mog for little bit longer than usual you will be really mad about it, we have ancestors hidden in boxes in private collections and they cannot rest until they come back to country, you get home sick when you are away, where you were born, where you have connections, it is exact the same thing.

Reviewed 12 February 2020