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Gangalidda Garawa peoples celebrate return

Yesterday, the Gangalidda Garawa people gathered to celebrate the return of culturally significant items from the Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, to the Gangalidda Garawa peoples of the Queensland Gulf Country. 

The ceremony follows the formal handover of Nyamal and Gangalidda Garawa cultural heritage material at Australia House in London on the 22nd of November after the Manchester Museum announced, in October 2019, it would unconditionally repatriate 43 significant items to the Nyamal, Gangalidda Garawa, Aranda and Yawuru peoples.

This repatriation is part of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) led Return of Cultural Heritage Project, in partnership with the First Nations communities and the Manchester Museum.

Chairperson of the Gangalidda Garawa Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, Murrandoo Yanner, hailed the significance of the occasion for his community.

“It’s not just the items, it’s the spirit attached, they were taken. The people who once owned them, their spirit went with them and they returned today”, Mr Yanner said.

“It’s a very, very powerful event and it helps in the cultural revival that’s going on”.

AIATSIS Deputy CEO Mr Michael Ramalli echoed the importance of the returns for the cultural resurgence of Australia’s First Nations’ peoples.

“It’s important the material came back to the Traditional Owners because when it’s here, it can be cared for and put back into ceremony”, Mr Ramalli said.

The handover ceremony was co-hosted by Gangalidda Garawa Native Title Aboriginal Corporation in partnership with the Burke Shire Council. In attendance were Her Excellency, Vicki Treadell CMG MVO, British High Commissioner to Australia and Ms Clare Keenan, CEO Burke Shire Council.

AIATSIS partnered with the Manchester Museum and the Gangalidda Garawa peoples to research and repatriate the material to their traditional Country. 

Gangalidda Garawa people and members of the RoCH team celebrating the return of cultural heritage material. Photo: D Walding, AIATSIS.

The AIATSIS-led Return of Cultural Heritage Project is funded by the Australian Government as part of the measures to mark the 250th anniversary, in 2020, of James Cook’s first voyage to Australia. 

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Last updated: 16 August 2022