Repatriation of ancestral remains

Museum Victoria recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural property, and through the Indigenous Repatriation Program has given priority to the return of Ancestral Remains to Australian Indigenous communities. The Repatriation of Indigenous Cultural Property Policy outlines the principles under which the program has operated.

From 1985 to August 2016, Museum Victoria has facilitated the repatriation of more than 2,200 individuals to Indigenous communities throughout Australia and to New Zealand.

Under the Victorian State Government, Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act (2016), from August 1, 2016, responsibility for the repatriation of all Australian (not just Victorian) Ancestral Remains has been transferred to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council. The museum will continue to provide safe-keeping for the remains on behalf of the Council, and will also continue to consult with overseas Indigenous communities about their ancestral remains.


Nathan Woolford

Manager, Ancestral Remains Unit
Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council
Department of Premier and Cabinet
1 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone: 0437 528 994

What to do if you have Aboriginal remains

Do not post or bring Ancestral Remains to the museum.

It is important that members of the public who have any remains in their possession hand these over to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, which is the responsible agency.

To ensure that Ancestral Remains can be reburied back on their own country, it is very important to provide as many details as possible about them, even if you feel they are not significant. The smallest detail can often be very informative.

What to do if you find human remains

If you do come across human remains in the landscape, please do not disturb them, but contact your local police station immediately. The police will contact staff of Aboriginal Victoria and the State Coroner’s Office to determine whether or not they are the remains of an Indigenous person.

Since 2001, the Repatriation Program has been supported by the Australian Federal Government and currently has funding assistance through the Indigenous Repatriation Program, Department of Communications and the Arts.

Repatriation Ceremonies

Resting Places: A History of Australian Indigenous Ancestral Remains at Museum Victoria

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