Museum assists in returning First Australian ancestral remains to Country

02 May 2017

A smoking ceremony, held at the Museum of Tropical Queensland last Friday, was a significant step in the repatriation process to return the remains of King Ng:tja (pronounced Narcha) from Germany to his traditional Country in Far North Queensland.

Queensland Museum Network Director and CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said Queensland Museum staff had been working with members of the Ngadjon-Jii based at the southern end of the Atherton Tableland to facilitate the return of their ancestor.

“The Museum has been the temporary holding place for King Ng:tja on his journey home to Country while the Ngadjon-Jii People have arranged the next stage of his return,” Professor Miller said.

“We are honoured to play a role in this important process.”

Vera Ketchell, a representative of the Ngadjon-Jii People and great-great-granddaughter of King Ng:tja, said, “It’s been a very emotional journey repatriating grandfather and to know that he’s back in Australia is an overwhelming and joyous feeling. The next step is the journey home to Country.”

This repatriation process has been undertaken as part of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Repatriation Program which supports Indigenous communities to pursue the unconditional return of their ancestral remains that are held in collections overseas and within Australia.

For more than 150 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains were removed by anthropologists, medical officers, anatomists, ethnologists and pastoralists and taken to museums, universities and private collections in Australia and overseas for research linked to explaining human biological differences. More than 1,400 ancestral remains have been returned to Australia since the program’s inception 25 years ago.

The Queensland Museum’s own repatriation program is supported by the Queensland Government and the Queensland Museum Repatriation Fund.