Ancestral Remains

We are responsible for returning Aboriginal Ancestral Remains (Ancestors) in Victoria.

What are Ancestral Remains?

Aboriginal Ancestral Remains are the whole or part of the body of an Aboriginal person from the past and are often referred to as Ancestors.

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 provides protection for Aboriginal Ancestral Remains and says that Ancestral Remains should be owned by and returned to Traditional Owners of the area they came from.

Under the Act it is an offence for anyone who is not the Aboriginal Traditional Owner to have Ancestral Remains in their possession.

Why are they not on Country?

Aboriginal Ancestors were stolen from their graves in the name of science and research. These people, who had been buried with care and ceremony, became objects of research and curiosities for individuals and institutions. They were often stored in boxes or left on shelves for decades.

Since strong community activism in the 1980s, some Ancestors have been returned to Country but there are many more waiting to go home. Council does research to understand where the Ancestors came from and then works with the Traditional Owners to take them home.

Climate change and development pressures have increasingly exposed Ancestors' burial sites. Working with Traditional Owners, Council also seeks to keep Ancestors safe on Country.

To learn more visit our Repatriation of Ancestral Remains page.

“The desecration of our Ancestors’ remains impacts on us, it harms us. We all have a part to play so that true reconciliation can be achieved and our Ancestors returned back to their Country for reburial, where they find peace with our Spiritual Mother the land, before drifting off into the Dreamtime.”

Talk to us

To find out what to do, and how to submit a report if required, go to our Report Ancestral Remains page.

More information

Read our 2014 recommendations paper which resulted in the changes being made to the Aboriginal Heritage Act in 2016

Bringing our Ancestors Home - We will not be well until this is done (HTML version).

You can also download the discussion paper and recommendations:

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