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March 15, 2022

Additional funding promised for repatriation of Aboriginal remains

The Liberal Party has promised an additional $2 million to continue the process of repatriating Aboriginal remains held at the South Australian Museum to Wangayarta and other sites.

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  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Main image: Johnny von Einem

The Liberal Party this morning announced it would allocate $3 million towards strengthening First Nations languages and repatriating Aboriginal ancestral remains over the next five years, if re-elected in this week’s state election.

From this sum, $2 million would go to the reburial of some of the 4500 Aboriginal remains currently kept in storage by the South Australian Museum. The remains would be repatriated to Aboriginal communities and, where possible, Wangayarta – the purpose-built Kaurna memorial site situated in Smithfield, which was unveiled in December last year.

“I’m very proud that we were recently able to lay to rest respectfully and with dignity the remains of Kaurna ancestors that were previously held away from the country that means so much to their people and culture,” Premier and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Steven Marshall, said.

“The world-leading pilot is the first phase on an outstanding project that will have a profound effect on the lives of many, many people – and I’m looking forward to extending the project to other First Nations.”

The South Australian Museum is not allowed to comment on the election promise due to caretaker conventions.

CityMag was recently informed the Kaurna Reference Group, a body of community elders responsible for making the initial Wangayarta reburials happen, would meet this week to discuss future reinterments.

The Liberal Party also promised $350,000 per annum into the Reawakening Aboriginal Languages project – an online initiative launched last year with the South Australian Museum and University of Adelaide aiming to ensure at least 46 South Australian Aboriginal languages are not lost forever.

The website was initially spearheaded by the South Australian Museum and University of Adelaide and this funding would allow further website development.

Labor MLC and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher told CityMag the Marshall Government had been an “abject failure” in regards to Aboriginal affairs, highlighting the slashed funding for Port Adelaide’s Tauondi Aboriginal Community College.

“Labor’s already made commitments far in excess of what Steven Marshall has come out with today,” he said.

“As for Tauondi College, Labor has made a $4 million commitment to transfer the building and the property for Aboriginal control.”

If successful in forming government, Maher said Labor would pump $2.5 million into helping rebuild the decaying Aboriginal Yadu Health clinic in Ceduna and $5 million for Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands clinic Nganampa Health.

“Nganampa Health in the APY Lands have made it known to the government that they’re in danger of closing without adequate funding,” he said.

“We [also] have a million dollar commitment to Aboriginal statues and monuments and we’ve allocated $2 million to restart the treaty process.”

Maher did not answer direct questions on whether his party would allocate funding for future reburials and the online language revival project, but that Labor would “look into” how to best continue these projects if successful in forming government.

“We will absolutely work with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities to look at how we can best continue programs and reburials,” he said.

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