Sweden has agreed to return the remains of 13
Aborigines it collected illegally in Australia almost 100 years
Sweden will be the first European government to
return Aboriginal remains, Australian and Swedish officials said.
is a very powerful event for us," commissioner Rodney Dillon
of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission told reporters at the
National Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, where the remains are
being kept in storage.
"Our spirits, and who we are, come directly
from these people," he
"We're happy for the spirits of these people
that they're coming home to the country where they were born."
can't tell you in words the amount this will mean to the Aboriginal
Aborigines believe that the dead cannot rest in
peace unless their remains are buried in their homeland.
The 13 skulls
and remains of two skeletons will now be examined by Swedish and
Australian experts to determine their identities.
The remains will
then be repatriated some time after October 2004.
They are known
to come from two regions in Australia, the Kimberlies and northern
The remains were removed from their graves against
the will of their families and brought to Sweden by scientists Yngve
Laurell and Eric Mjoeberg, who conducted expeditions between 1910
According to Mr Dillon, the remains of some 10,000
to 15,000 Aboriginals are believed to be spread out around the world,
and only about 1,000 have so far been returned.
"A fair amount" of
those still abroad are located in France, England and northern Europe,
Mr Dillon said Sweden's handling of the issue contrasted
sharply with the "long and drawn-out process" experienced
While the Edinburgh Museum had returned 440 sets
of remains five years ago, the Natural History Museum in London
has refused to return the remains in its possession.
year, the Manchester Museum returned four Aboriginal skulls to the
community to which they belonged.
Yet the Swedish Government remains
the only government in Europe that has agreed to adopt a policy
"We'll be putting this country on a pedestal
in our negotiations with other countries," Mr Dillon said.
He said special smoking ceremonies would be performed
on the remains in Stockholm to release their spirits before their
repatriation to Australia.
A similar ceremony would be held upon
their return to welcome them home.