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Press release


Ancestral Remains Repatriated to Australia

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The Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin today returned fourteen further ancestral remains to representatives of the indigenous communities of Australia. The official ceremony was attended by officials from Australia and Germany, representatives of the indigenous communities, the Australian Embassy and the Charité.

Fulfilling their role as 'traditional owners', the representatives of the Goemulgal and the Wajarri Yamatji officially accepted the remains of their ancestors which they will now proceed to bury in ancestral territory. Addressing the audience, Prof. Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl, Chairman of the Charité Executive Board, explained that "The Charité is committed to ensuring that ancestral remains that were most probably collected in the name of scientific research can now be returned to their 'traditional owners'. In doing so, the Charité reiterates its commitment to the ongoing repatriation process"

In 2008, the Charité was the first science institution in Germany to sign a repatriation agreement with Australia. However, before the repatriation process could commence, the exact origins of the remains had to first be established. As a result, between 2010 -2013 the DFG-funded “Charité Human Remains Project” was able to investigate and ascertain the provenance of the remains in question as well as establishing the historical context in which the collection of 'skulls and skeletal parts' made their way to Berlin and to the Charité. The project was supervised by Dr. Andreas Winkelmann, a teaching coordinator and lecturer at the Charité Department of Anatomy, and Prof. Dr. Thomas Schnalke, Director of the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité.

The fourteen ancestral remains handed over today originate from two regions of Australia. Thirteen of the remains in question stem from the Torres Strait Islands. In addition, one skull was excavated by a German engineer in Western Australia. This most probably took place in the year 1891 or 1892.

At the first hand-over ceremony held in April 2013, the Charité returned skulls and ancestral remains of thirty-three persons to the indigenous communities of Australia. Today’s handover ceremony is the fifth occasion on which the Charité has handed over ancestral remains from its anthropological collections to the victims’ countries of origin. In addition to Australia (2013 and 2014), remains have also been repatriated to Namibia (2011 and 2014) and to Paraguay (2012).





Privatdozent Dr. Andreas Winkelmann
Teaching Coordinator Anatomy
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
t: +49 30 450 570 400

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