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Smithsonian returns Indigenous remains to Australia

Andrew Brown -

The ancestral remains of 14 Indigenous people have been returned to Australia from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC.

A ceremony was held overnight in the US marking their repatriation to Australia before the Indigenous ancestors will be returned to their traditional custodians.

Of the ancestors, seven will be returned to custodians from the Ngarrindjeri community in South Australia, the Eastern Maar community in Victoria and the Yawuru community in Western Australia.

A further five will come home to Victoria, the Northern Territory and Western Australia under government stewardship, while two will be returned to a community in Victoria.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney welcomed the repatriation of the ancestors.

"Repatriation of First Nations ancestors is an important step toward reconciliation," she said.

"This sets a positive example for other collecting institutions internationally in recognising First Nations people as the rightful custodians of their ancestors."

It's been the fourth return of ancestors from the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum since 2008.

Since 1990, the remains of 1700 Indigenous Australians have been returned from museums around the world, including 139 from the United States.

Arts Minister Tony Burke said the government would continue to advocate for repatriation.

"Bringing First Nations ancestors home - where they belong - is incredibly important work," he said.

Andrew Brown - AAP

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