Colonial remains returned to Australia

In a moving ceremony, the Free State of Saxony has returned more bones from the colonial era to Australia, the country of origin. The descendants of Indigenous Australians also attended the handover ceremony on Thursday at the Grassi Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig. Saxony’s Minister of Culture, Barbara Klebisch (CDU), said the return was an important step towards reconciliation and understanding. “It is a shame that the deceased have been kept as collectibles in museums and also displayed in public places. We deeply regret this.”

The bones of six individuals were delivered from the ethnographic inventory of the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD). They came from serious plundering and victims of violent disputes, SKD declared. It was already the third comeback. In April and November 2019, the remains of 83 people who had been part of previous collections were returned to Australia. Returns are an important part of the decolonization of ethnological museums in Saxony.

Australia’s ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, said the Australian government was keen to right “grave wrongs” made in the past. Since 1990, more than 1,600 ancestors from nine countries have been returned to Australia, 157 of them from German populations. Work is underway to bring back about 100 other ancestors from German institutions and private collections. All 16 states and the federal government supported the repatriation effort.

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