A Hanover museum has sent the remains of an indigenous Australian woman home after holding them for more than a century. German museums have been urged to be extremely sensitive in dealing with such remains.
The State Museum in the northern German city of Hanover on Tuesday returned the mortal remains of an indigenous Australian women who died more than 100 years ago to her descendants.
The deceased woman's body had been taken from her native Australia by a German mine leaseholder, who in 1909 gave it to the regional museum. The woman's descendants had prepared a cloth with handprints and messages ready for her return to her home state of Queensland in the east of Australia.
The community to which the woman belonged had been established by an anthropological examination. She died between the ages of 16 and 21, and came from the region near Cape York in the northeast of the Australian continent.
At a solemn ceremony in Hanover, Australian Ambassador Lynette Wood said it was of immense importance to Aboriginal peoples that their ancestors' remains be given back to them.
Dealing with the colonial legacy
The Australian government has been supporting such return actions by international collections for 25 years. So far, 52 sets of mortal remains have been sent back from Germany, out of a total of 1,475 worldwide.
The German Museums Association has urged ethnological collections to show particular sensitivity in dealing with the colonial legacy and with the bodies of dead people that have entered the collections in the past.
On Monday, the state of Saxony for the first time returned human bones from a museum collection to representatives of their country of origin, in this case Hawaii. The Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology) in Dresden obtained the remains, which had been stolen from burial caves, in 1900.