8 May 2023
The National Museum of Australia and Museums Victoria have arranged to return the remains of Japanese Indigenous Ainu people to members of the Government of Japan, Ainu Association of Hokkaido, Enciw Bereaved Association and Tokyo University.
National Museum of Australia director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said ‘We are humbled and honoured to be able to return these remains to Japan. Our commitment to the return of individuals to communities is at the heart of our continuing efforts to reform our relationships to First Nations People everywhere.’
Museums Victoria CEO and Director, Lynley Crosswell, said ‘Museums Victoria is committed to the repatriation of First Peoples Ancestral Remains and Cultural Material, and we are honoured to be supporting the return of these Ancestors to resting places in Japan.’
Research by the National Museum of Australia and Museums Victoria confirmed the four sets of Ainu remains were likely sent from Japan to Australia between 1911 and 1936.
Dr Trinca said, ‘In collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the National Museum has been working for many years with representatives of the Japanese Government and Ainu people on the repatriation of Ainu remains held at the Museum’s Repatriation Unit in Canberra.
‘The remains were transferred to the National Museum of Australia from the Institute of Anatomy in 1985. The remains have not been on public display at the Museum,’ Dr Trinca said.
The Australian Government supports the repatriation of Australian Indigenous ancestral remains to their communities of origin through the Indigenous Repatriation Program to help promote healing and reconciliation.
The remains of Ainu and other Indigenous people, including Australian Aboriginal people, were removed from grave sites and traded internationally for scientific and other purposes.
The National Museum has worked to facilitate the return of non-Australian Indigenous ancestral remains to places such as the United States and New Zealand. Although such remains are often poorly provenanced, the Museum will work proactively to help return them.