TAMWORTH Regional Council will engage with a wide range of people from the local indigenous community before deciding on a final repatriation process of ancestral remains, which will eventually be housed in an artefact site at the Tamworth Botanic Gardens.
During last Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillors endorsed a recommendation to approve the repatriation of the remains, subject to further consultation with local Aboriginal people.
The repatriation of the bones is part of a NSW Office of Environment and Heritage initiative, Return to Country, which involves ancestral remains from museums around the world.
The bones that will eventually return to Tamworth had been housed in the Sydney University’s Shellshear Museum since 1922, after being exhumed from a Tamworth property in 1880.
They were recently returned to the Office of Environment and Heritage for the purpose of the project.
The report to the council said “as the repatriation of ancestral remains is a sensitive issue, it is suggested further consultation is required with various indigenous groups, to gain a broader consensus on the proposal”.
“This process could take some time, and it is proposed that the consultation would be undertaken on the basis the proposal has council’s in-principle support,” the report said.
Should the site in the botanic gardens be deemed appropriate, members of the public would not know the specifics of where the remains were buried.
Brian Allen, a director of the Tamworth Aboriginal Lands Council, travelled to Sydney recently to retrieve the remains, which include a full set of remains and another partial set, and bring them home to Tamworth in preparation for the burial here.
“They are in safe-keeping until the perfect resting place can be decided on,” he said.
Mr Allen said while discussions in the near future would determine the finer details of the burial, ceremony and a plaque to be erected in the botanic gardens, the process was important.
“This is significant, because we always like to bring people back to the land they call home,” he said.
A report will come back to the council following the next round of discussions.