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Germany commits to the largest repatriation of its indigenous Aboriginal Australians

Germany is returning the remains of 53 Aboriginals ancestors to Australia this month in what has been described by Australian officials as the “largest” repatriation of indigenous people.

The skulls and bones of Aboriginal Australians were taken from Australia in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries and placed in museums across the world. These remains were displayed in museums to promote the idea of eugenics and continued for over 150 years.

The native aboriginals were initially displaced by European settlers over two centuries ago with thousands being massacred.

Last Tuesday the skeletal remains of an Aboriginal ancestral king was returned to representatives of the Yidinji indigenous group.

This was shortly followed by the return of eight ancestors' remains to Australia by the University of Freiburg and two from the Linden-Museum. Work is underway to identify their communities of origin.

Germany has committed to return the human remains in its collection which include a large volume from Africa. This latest move has been described as the largest handover of this kind. 37 of these human remains comes from the State Ethnographic Collections and five ancestors from Martin Luther University. They will be returned on Monday afternoon. 

Mitch Fifield, Australia's Minister for Communications and the Arts welcomed the decision stating it "contributes to healing and reconciliation”. Fifield stated his government was committed to seeing the "unconditional return of ancestral remains held in overseas collections".

Germany has previously agreed to return human remains to Namibia, where it had killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people from 1904 to 1908.

Officials stated they would speed up the return of human remains and artwork to former African colonies after determining which "were acquired in a way that legally or ethically would no longer be acceptable”.

Read more here.

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