Aboriginals Win Back Ancestral Remains in French-Australian Accord

During the first ever visit by a French head of state to Australia, French President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott agreed, among other things, to work together to help return the remains of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait people currently believed to be held in French museums, according to an AFP report.

In a joint statement, the two leaders said that they would “respect the sensitivities and values of the two countries and consider the requests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as the specific framework of the French legal system” through the process.

Both Australia and France will contribute experts and resources to a committee tasked with examining the remains of indigenous peoples, which are currently located in France. The committee will perform analysis to determine which, among those remains, belong to Aboriginal peoples of Australia. “The French government will then examine possible solutions to enable the return of the human remains in question to their communities of origin,” the statement explains.

The announcement marks relatively significant headway for leaders of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities who have lobbied governments around the world for years in hopes of repatriating the remains of their ancestors.

As SBS World News Radio reported, elders within those communities now hope that the French agreement will set a precedent for further countries to engage in similar research and repatriation efforts. The US and Europe are believed to have particularly extensive holdings of indigenous Australian remains. The reports says that approximately 1,150 sets of remains have been returned to Australia since 1990. Italy, Sweden, and Austria have all returned remains in recent years.

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