EJANZH: Turnbull

By Paul Turnbull, Department of History and Politics, James Cook University of North Queensland, P.O. Q4811.

I. Returning Ancestors.

On 30 September 1991 the Senatus Academicus, the governing body of the university of Edinburgh, formally gave nearly 300 osteological specimens derived from Aboriginal bodies to representatives of the Aboriginal people. Much to the sadness of the Aboriginal delegation who had flown to Britain to accept the remains, the hand-over ceremony did not take place within the University of Edinburgh, but at the Pickford company’s air-freight depot, situated in one of the numerous commercial estates fringing London’s Heathrow Airport.

Visibly tired from the long flight from Australia, Ngarinjin Elder David Mowaljarlai requested that he and Bob Weatherall, coordinator for the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA), be given time alone with the remains, which had been carefully packed in styrofoam for transit by the university and were now resting in Pickford’s warehouse draped with Aboriginal flags. After about half an hour, the two men emerged and a press conference was held. Dr Martin Lowe, the university of Edinburgh’s representative, spoke first of the failure of previous generations of scientists to appreciate the religious significance of these remains for Aboriginal people, and, together with the collection, offered Aboriginal people a message of friendship of the university community.

David Mowaljarlai thanked Dr Lowe for the “great spiritual gift” of the university to Aboriginal people. He then proceeded to speak calmly and movingly of the Ngarinjin/Worora continuum of ancestral creation, life in the land, death and return to the realm of the spirit. Having earlier glimpsed Mowaljarlai’s commune with the remains, and now hearing his moving description of the ceremonies and rituals preceding the return of the Ngarinjin/Worora dead to the creating Wandjina, the assembled journalists and numerous well- wishers were clearly moved. Several journalists afterwards confessed to having had only a vague idea of what they had been sent to cover – “why this fuss about a lot of old bones”, one had asked on his arrival at the depot. Now they left to meet deadlines feeling no good scientific argument for the preservation and continued scientific use of remains could outweigh Aboriginal claims. Some were intrigued as to why, until the Senatus decision of early 1991, the university of Edinburgh had been content to allow its anatomy department to refuse to take seriously the arguments put by successive Aboriginal delegations seeking repatriation.

The return of the Edinburgh collection to Australia illustrates particularly well the complexities, ethical and political, which campaigns for the return of skeletal remains to Aboriginal communities since the late 1970s have obliged non-Aboriginal people to consider and variously accommodate.

During the 1980s leading figures from across the spectrum of the human sciences, who were opposed to Aboriginal control of remains, asserted in various forums that Aboriginal spokespersons demanding repatriation were intent on making the remains a political issue. More often than not Aboriginal “politics” was contrasted with their professional, scientifically objective and apolitical interests in preserving remains. Some even went as far as to suggest that the existence of Aboriginal remains in scientific collections had never been an issue until the late 1970s, when younger Aboriginal politicians had learnt of campaigns by the first nations of North America for the repatriation of remains and grave goods. Probably the most extreme outburst came late in the debate, from P.H. Piggott, a former chairman of the Commonwealth Government’s Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections. Writing to the Australian newspaper in August 1990, Piggott condemned demands for the re-burial of remains found at Kow Swamp, arguing that anyone wishing the destruction of this material was possessed of the same mentality that sparked the European witch-craze and the fascist book-burnings of the 1930s. Piggott pointed out that he had “had the good fortune to work with Aboriginal people” during the fifteen years of work for the establishment of a National Museum of Australia: “People”, he stressed, “who [had] helped shape guidelines on such matters, [as] differentiating modern material and that which may be significant in giving an important insight into Aboriginal past”. The Museum, and by implication the Aboriginal people who had worked to fashion its guidelines had now been ignored. It was essential that a few “radical Aborigines” not be allowed to destroy remains of “extra-national” importance, and crucial value for “future generations of archaeologists, black and white”.

To the embarrassment of many in the archaeological community, Piggott went so far as to suggest that pressure for the burial of the Kow Swamp relics was possibly motivated by fear on the part of “radical Aborigines” – supported by “radical whites” – that the remains were those of a people from a different and earlier prehistoric migration through the Australian continent. Perhaps the true agenda was removal of “a sinister thorn in the side of the land rights claim”.

Most archaeologists, physical anthropologists and anatomists opposed to Aboriginal repatriation were quite aware that working with human remains raised ethical questions beyond the scope of scientific practice when narrow defined. In 1984, for example, the Australian Archaeological Association wrote to Evan Walker, then the Victorian Minister for Planning and the Environment. The Association congratulated the Victorian Government on its moves to accommodate Koori demands, though not without telling Walker that the Association had, for some months, been monitoring press coverage of Aboriginal demands and was “dismayed at times by the negative and socially divisive nature of some of these comments”. The Association had consequently set up a small expert committee to determine and place at the service of government the opinions of its 500 strong professional and amateur membership. The Association stressed it could understand and was extremely sympathetic to Koori views. Indeed, it pointed out that at its 1982 annual general meeting, the Association had resolved to demand that Tasmanian state government hand over to the Aboriginal people of Tasmania the notorious William L. Crowther collection, to be disposed of as they saw fit.

However, the Australian Archaeological Association made clear that it could only support the disposal of remains when it could be shown that the person in question was known, and had expressed a desire not to be used for scientific purposes, or when it was the wishes of an appropriate community that remains be buried. The Association further stressed that it was very favourably disposed to the establishment of Aboriginal keeping places. But it could not condone was what is saw as the destruction of ancient remains, such as those discovered at Kow Swamp and at Lake Mungo, with the result that humanity would suffer the loss of artefacts which might allow the construal of much that was new about the course of human cultural development or biological evolution (Meehan, 1984).

John Mulvaney, Australia’s leading prehistorian, was opposed to Aboriginal control on much the same grounds, and openly critical of what he condemned as politically motivated demands for repatriation (Mulvaney 1990a). But equally, he was moved to reassure Aboriginal people that the archaeological community treated their remains with respect, and did so on the strength of a learned appreciation of the ways in which the racial sciences of earlier generations had represented Aboriginal people (Mulvaney, 1958; 1971; 1981; 1985). Accusations levelled against Mulvaney, along the lines that professional self-interest led him in 1988 to suggest that continued scientific use of remains might strongly enhance future claims by Aboriginal communities to land, was wrong and especially unjust in that from the mid-1950s Mulvaney had personally done much to encourage preservation, and respect, for Aboriginal material culture. He sincerely believed that Aboriginal and growing non-Aboriginal support for land rights might provide the grounds for reconciling scientific aspirations with indigenous demands.

If Mulvaney and other preservationists were guilty of anything, it was in holding to the cultural values of the European Enlightenment. Given the course of European history in the twentieth-century, they feared that cultural relativism would necessarily result in moral relativism, and could not comprehend why Aboriginal people refused what they saw as reasonable compromises, such as the establishment of keeping places within museums and universities, which might even be closed to scholarly access until such time as scientific examination of the remains could be done by Aboriginal scholars. Nor could they view without cynicism non-Aboriginal politicians concessions to Aboriginal peoples’ demands that the fate of remains be decided solely by appropriate communities.

Overall, the case against repatriation, as it was various aired in the Australian media through the 1980s, was generally framed within fairly conventional liberal positivist terms. Scientific investigation of remains during the third century of European Australia was spoken of as if it could be a practice whose intellectual products would be pretty well immune from unpredictable influence by the contingent, extra- scientific concerns of the individuals who might actually go about doing the science.

Likewise, when touching on the ways in which Aboriginal remains were used in the construction of earlier racial sciences, preservationists were quick to dismiss the validity of drawing continuities between their stance and the contempt for Aboriginal sensibilities frequently displayed by colonial museum personnel from the 1870s to the 1920s (Mulvaney 1990a). Though in the process past sciences such as Australian evolutionary anthropology were problematically represented as “pseudo-sciences”, the demise of which was the logical outcome of the evolution within the human sciences of increasingly objective disciplinary aims and procedures (see Mulvaney, 1985).

Yet Aboriginal voices have not found it so easy to disentangle past from present. Nor do they appear willing to do so, as is pointedly illustrated by the reaction of Aboriginal staff in one Australian state museum, in mid-1991, to the second draft of the Councils of Australian Museum Directors and Associations policy on Museums and Aboriginal People in Australia. On page five of the draft document appears the following sentence:

The past behaviour of museums, where they conflict with current standards and attitudes, cannot be an issue in determining the basis of discussions and decisions today. (Griffin et. al. 1990)

On the copy supplied to Aboriginal staff – a copy of which was supplied to me – the above emphatic statement – “cannot be…” had been tersely annotated with a single word, “Bullshit.”

What preservationists failed to appreciate, or were loathe to acknowledge, was that in demanding control of remains Aboriginal people were articulating a politics which stressed the degree to which their identity had been forged through the historical experiences of colonialism.

Generally speaking, where indigenous peoples have survived they have employed a variety of strategies to resist the imposition of identities engineered by modern state-makers. They now work – with varying degrees of success – to overturn their long marginalised status by a politics which stresses their position as indigenous and colonised. This leads to some difficult choices, given that indigenous notions of being will often be at odds with western concepts of the self and community in time. Nonetheless, these concepts must be used if critique is to effectively challenge the imposition of national identity within the modern state. It also happens that cultural negotiations require the use of the vocabulary of the colonist. This often results in particular sensitivity to the practices and intellectual products of various state agencies and institutions, most of which non- Aboriginal people do not see as powerful in any commonsense view of power, but which clearly have enjoyed discursive power since their foundation in the colonial era (FAIRA, 1989).

With the remains controversy, the politics of indigenous people became focused on challenging science, an institution that has played a key role in the colonial foundation and gradual consolidation of a nation state. Though perhaps it would be more accurate in the British/Australian context to speak of critiques of various aspects of the practices of European sciences generated by indigenous networks: of Aboriginal communities with land; communities still without; Aboriginal groups and institutions, empowered, but sited uneasily within the institutional complex of the nation-state; and Aboriginal politicians who seek to forge a politics of consensus between communities with land and those who live on the margin of European society. This network has generated a politics articulated by many voices. These voices are, of course, inflected by localised concerns and issues.

Nonetheless, over the last decade or so, these Aboriginal voices have been heard in an easy unison, narrating in a variety of public and academic forums what qualify by western canons as histories of oppression, resistance and survival. These histories, often realist and mimetic narratives of the past, are at the same time informed by more traditional Aboriginal conceptualisations of self and community in time/space. Procurement and scientific use of remains thus has primarily been represented as a brutal disruption of Aboriginal peoples’ complex spiritual affinity to the land. Indeed, grave robbing and body snatching’s severance of the continuum of ancestral past, life in the land, death and return to the realm of dreaming has been spoken of as indistinguishable from taking the country itself. As Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell has argued: “The remains are as important to us as land rights. It’s a much more volatile issue, closer to the heart than even getting our land back.” (Langsam, 1990).

It is also seen as an issue rooted in the dynamics of a colonial history, where the use, preservation and public display of remains are seen as having been potent agents of racism. By displaying remains, especially within the context of lectures and exhibitions depicting the natural course of human history, European science entrenched successive false premises about the nature and origins of Aboriginal people. For a century or so after the commencement of the expropriation of Aboriginal land in 1788, science represented Aboriginal people as a race who had “degenerated” in physique and intellect as a consequence of the rigours of savage life in the uncultivated wilds of Australia. As pastoralism and agriculture spread, Aboriginal people, as a distinct race, were destined for extinction. From the 1860s onwards the wide discursive currency enjoyed by Darwinistic modes of thought gradually led to Aboriginal people being represented not as degenerate but as a “low” or “primitive” race, whose peculiar physical and intellectual attributes rendered them fit only for carefully circumscribed participation in British settler society. Hence the return of remains to the land, either by ancestors or by people who regard themselves as holding the land in trust for groups that did not survive white aggression, is seen as both an affirmation of Aboriginal identity and integral to an ongoing struggle for the recognition of sovereignty to the lands Europeans took and named Australia.

In these respects, the campaign which eventually resulted in the hand-over of the Edinburgh collection shows Aboriginal people from various communities “coming strong”, in the sense of articulating a politics in which western modes of knowing are informed by distinctly Aboriginal conceptions of the self, community and spirit. David Mowaljarlai’s speech, for example, stressed the concern of Elders from numerous communities whose remains were known to be in Edinburgh to ensure that Europeans appreciate the profound spiritual obligation that they have to see remains returned to ancestral country. As I recall remarking to Roslyn Poignant, writer and long-time supporter of Aboriginal rights, at the time Mowaljarlai spoke, looking around the press, academics and friends of Aboriginal people assembled at Pickford’s warehouse, one could see the authority Mowaljarlai commanded. Yet, as became clear on sharing impressions of the ceremony with Roslyn Poignant in subsequent correspondence and conversation, what I had not appreciated at the time of Mowaljarlai’s speaking was – as my friend noted – the Ngarinjin Elder’s careful use of the anthropological concept of grid to translate the essentially visual relations of his people to ancestral land (Poignant, 1992). Mowaljarlai carefully sought to deploy the conceptual vocabulary of a western science so as to impress upon Europeans the obligations which had led him and other Aboriginal Elders to make the trip to Britain to seek personally the return of remains. As Mowaljarlai told his audience:

We Aborigines of Australia see our land as a grid system, within which every man has his symbol in nature. One man will have a mountain as his symbol, another the river, another a plain; still others represent the stringybark tree, or the track of a spirit, a fish such as the rock cod, or a tree blossom (Mowaljarlai, 1991).

The theme of obligation to see remains returned to their ancestral country was taken up in shorter speeches by Aboriginal spokespersons Bob Weatherall and Rikki Shield, both of whom extended the notions of obligation to embrace Britons and non-Aboriginal Australians. We too have obligations, Weatherall reminded us, primarily to acknowledge the history of the complicity of western knowledge in rendering Aboriginal people colonial subjects. As Rikki Shield continued by way of conclusion, ending the preservation of remains as specimens in European scientific collections was crucial to reconciliation. For so long as they were so understood they would remain a wound on life, land and memory for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Much the same concerns that Aboriginality be respected and the obligations imposed by a shared colonial past be now justly met had earlier been voiced by Monty Pryor, Birri Gubba Elder and Deacon of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Townsville. Monty was not present at the hand-over ceremony of the Edinburgh collections, due to fragile health and the demands of his pastoral work. However, he had played a key role in effecting the repatriation of the remains, journeying to Edinburgh in 1990. Monty had sought to impress upon Matthew Kaufmann, Professor of Anatomy in the university of Edinburgh, how the taking of remains was indistinguishable from moving people off the land, or the removal of children away from their parents. For Monty, the claims of Aboriginal spirituality square easily with western modes of understanding time, the past and providence. His conversation moves effortlessly, but not always happily, between speaking of the spiritual importance of land, the confinement Murri prisoners still must endure at Stuart Creek prison, and the disappearance of the many years wages numerous Aboriginal people are still owed for their work in clearing and fencing the network of pastoral runs which still largely define the landscape of North Queensland. Sadly, in 1990, Monty found the university authorities unwilling to listen to what he had to say. Seated with Professor Kaufmann, he found himself feeling that he too had been reduced to a specimen, as he was later to recall:

Well my friend, he [Professor Kaufmann] gave us all the facts. He was an encyclopedia. He said he knew all about us Aboriginal people. He knew everything about us….I just had to get up and leave. (Pryor, 1992)

However, as Kaufmann sought to impress upon Monty Pryor the scientific value of the bones taken from the Birri Gubba and many other communities a century or so before, Aboriginal demands for an end to uncontrolled scientific use of bodily remains had gained considerable support with many non-Aboriginal Australians. So much so that by the end of 1990 academic contacts between Australia and Edinburgh, the Australian media and the federal government had all worked, in various ways, to foster a climate of debate in Edinburgh which finally brought about the decision to hand over the remains.

That Aboriginal claims had gained such strength was in turn greatly due to the determination of Aboriginal people across Australia like Monty Pryor – tireless workers for land rights, community health, housing and education – taking up the additional stress and strains of campaigning for the return of remains. As archaeologist Colin Pardoe commented in 1989,

This debate [over the use of remains] arose for one reason only: because indigenous people were demanding control, accountability and recognition of their ownership of the past. It was not something conceptualised by scholars for the good of indigenous people. What indigenous people wanted was control and information, and they have fought for it. It is salutary for us to remember that we are not bestowing control; indigenous people have demanded it as a right. (Pardoe, 1989, p.1)

It would indeed be mistaken to assume, as unsympathetic commentators would have it, that indigenous Australian demands only became an issue in the wake of such developments as the publicity generated by the demands of the first nations of North America for the repatriation of remains and grave goods. Far from it. As with broad assumptions about many aspects of Australian history, assessment of the remains controversy has been hindered by what several historians have characterised as the “Great Australian Silence” – the easy and often all-too-convenient Australian amnesia about the dispossession of Aboriginal peoples. In this instance, what has been overlooked has been the many traces of evidence that exhumations of Aboriginal graves in the cause of science have been a source of anguish since the first decades of white settlement.

II. “Rare and Curious Specimens”.

It is obviously beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the history of the procurement and scientific uses of the bodies of Aboriginal people in depth. However, some aspects of that history are worth reviewing at some length, given both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal concern to see

A definitive and systematic account of the treatment of the remains of our ancestors at the hands of anatomists, physical anthropologists and archaeologists and the ideological purposes so served…(FAIRA, 1989, p. 13).

It is furthermore important to note the histories of Aboriginal resistance that can be drawn from crumbling museum correspondence and dust covered volumes of now near undecipherable anatomical and anthropometric data.

From the early days of the penal settlement of New South Wales, scientific pursuits enjoyed a high currency amongst the middle strata of British society, from whence came the majority of early colonial administrators, professionals and many early pastoral entrepreneurs. Despite various attempts from the late 1820s to establish scientific societies in the Australian colonies, the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge remained almost exclusively the preserve of metropolitan science until well into the latter-half of the nineteenth-century. In metropolitan scientific discourse, the colonies were commonly represented as sources of rare and curious specimens – the raw materials of science – and from the late 1820s as growing markets for the consumption of finished natural history texts. Colonial science was thus largely undertaken with a view to serving the articulated or perceived needs for specimens of leading metropolitan men of science, or those of the increasingly influential scientific communities located in the universities and medical colleges of the metropolis. Often the colonist engaged in the pursuit of science had studied under a prominent natural historian, or had imbibed a “taste for science” in the course of attending an institution known to be interested in the acquisition of specimens of exotic “natural productions” (Macleod, 1981).

Science, however, was no uniform entity but rather a discursive economy which, from the time of the establishment of the New South Wales penal colony to the 1860s and the diffusion of Darwinistic modes of thought, had a distinctly laissez faire character, in that there was often wide variation in how science was understood, practiced and represented. British scientific texts were frequently the products of quite localised scientific communities, whose behaviour was variously influenced by the force of individual personality and the weight of institutional tradition. Depending on the context, science could be seen as an activity corroborating the wisdom of social conservatism, or validating programs of economic and political reformism. As I have argued elsewhere, most exhumations of Aboriginal graves prior to the 1860s, for example, appear to have been done in circumstances where skulls were invested with value principally by metropolitan champions of phrenology and its explicitly radical agenda of scientific self-improvement (Turnbull, 1990).

From the 1860s onwards, factors such as the professionalism of science, the rise to prominence of national scientific bodies, and the operations of associated patronage networks, rendered metropolitan science more homogenous in its guiding aims and practices. Contributing to this homogeneity was the widespread assent given Darwinistic modes of thought (Stocking, 1989). By the 1860s the enhanced size and prosperity of the Australian middle classes fostered greater willingness on the part of state governments to use public resources to encourage the production of scientific knowledge in the colonies. Metropolitan demand for specimens illustrative of evolutionary processes, combined with colonial aspirations to make Australia’s state museums and universities young and independent participants in the world of science, greatly stimulated domestic and international trading in the continent’s unique flora and fauna.

The half-century or so after 1860 also witnessed a remarkable surge of interest in procuring Aboriginal remains for science. Darwinian sciences’ construed Aboriginal people as distinct “primitive types” or “races” in the time-scale of human evolution. They offered, among other things, what seemed a powerful explanation of the history of Aboriginal mortality since 1788 in terms of the sad, but inevitable, extinction of a biologically inferior race. By the same logic, the procurement of remains was an urgent necessity. If science was to understand the anatomical and morphological peculiarities of Aboriginal people before they disappeared through death and miscegenation, it had to obtain “racially pure” bodies in sufficient numbers to meet contemporary standards of scientific proof. The dilemma facing the “comparative anthropologist” was light-heartedly touched on by Professor George Busk, a surgeon and naturalist keenly interested in human racial difference, when reviewing several new works of craniometry in 1862:

A Gorilla or a Chimpanzee can be caught and sent alive to the Zoological Gardens, or killed and forwarded in a cask of rum to the British Museum, but loud would be the outcry were similar attempts made to promote the study of Anthropology (Busk, 1862, p. 348).

However, on Australia’s pastoral and mining frontiers, where, as Reynolds (1981) and Loos (1982) have meticulously documented, war existed in all but name, the conceptual vocabulary of Darwinistic science was itself soon subject to mutation. By the end of the 1860s notions of Aboriginal “primitivity” “instinctual savagery” “animal treachery” and, of course, the ubiquitous tag “unfitted for survival” were all readily invoked by settlers to justify meeting Aboriginal resistance with indiscriminate murder. And, contrary to Busk’s assertion, there was no outcry by scientific figures when, on a number of occasions between the mid- 1860s and 1890s, science became the direct beneficiary of murder. Where there was not silence there were expressions of regret at lost opportunities for obtaining specimens. In March 1887, Magistrate and keen ethnologist Archibald Meston answered a request from the Director of the Australian Museum for skeletons from the Cairns district as follows:

To what strange uses are our noble primeval inhabitants to be devoted! At your prices I could have procured about œ2000 worth in the last six years. I shall start on the warpath again! Hope to succeed in slaughtering some stray skeleton (Mitchell Library MSS 1589/2/193)

Some five years earlier, the same director had lamented to a colleague in New Zealand that

The shooting season is over in Queensland and the ‘Black Game’ is protected now by more humane laws than formerly. So it is impossible to obtain reliable skulls & skeletons (Turnbull, 1991, p. 115).

The rapid acceptance of Darwinistic modes of thought from the early 1860s is traditionally seen as a watershed in the history of the human sciences. However, we would do well not to overlook some important historical continuities, notably how procurement, exhibition and giving of Aboriginal remains served a variety of social ends.

Irrespective of how they were understood in strictly scientific terms, Aboriginal remains had the status of rare and valuable objects. They were ideal gifts by which colonists could gain a name and place in metropolitan scientific circles. Medical practitioners especially, appear to have used the donation of remains to establish or reaffirm links with influential metropolitan patrons. While reinforcing the bonds of patronage, donation of remains disposed clients to champion the knowledge claims of their metropolitan patron or, in the case of university educated professionals, to disseminate knowledge about Aboriginal people produced by a shared alma mater.

Thus it was that exchanges were a practice by which metropolitan scientific claims entered colonial government, settler and missionary discourses. Perhaps nowhere can this be more clearly discerned than in the empirical weight given to representations of Aboriginal people as physiologically “degenerate” or “savage”. To give one example. In 1825, Arawarra, an Elder of the Shoalhaven people was carried back to his country a frail old man by his youngest son. By this time local settler legend had it that in earlier years Arawarra had committed “many dark deeds of blood”, leading war parties against gangs of cedar cutters in the district, ambushing, killing and feasting upon the members of one gang. Arawarra died two days after looking again on his country, “…now occupied by strangers”. He was buried by his family in dunes near the township of Cooloomgatta on the Shoalhaven estuary, only to be dug up several years later by Alexander Berry, a prominent local dairy farmer and devotee of phrenology. Shortly before despatching the Elder’s skull to the British recipient of the skull, Berry wrote:

Thus although this man of blood escaped punishment and died in peace, yet mark eternal justice his bones have not been allowed to rest in their grave & it is to be hoped that his skull will throw such light on science as may sufficiently expiate the crimes which he committed (Mitchell Library MSS 315/46 CY2025, pp. 247-8).

Berry’s comments are vivid but typical in portraying the exhumation of remains – arguably the most potent symbol to the settler conscience of Aboriginal rights to the soil – as justified by Aboriginal resistance. Yet what is interesting is the representation of grave- robbing as possibly holding the key to managing those vanquished from the soil to the margins or beyond the boundaries of colonial society.

Remains also served as the means for pastoralists to exercise a droit de seigneur of sorts, by allowing guests with a taste for science to remove Aboriginal remains from their property. At the bottom of the social spectrum the value placed on remains by the metropolitan and colonial elites made body- snatching a valuable source of cash for travellers, miners, fishermen and other bush-workers in the often uncertain economy of the frontier.

So great a social currency did remains possess through the course of the nineteenth-century that traditional moral qualms about grave robbing or dissection were overcome, even when – as is recorded as happening on a number of occasions – the procurement of remains involved serious risk of discovery by the deceased’s family or clan members. Indeed, Aboriginal resistance during the first half-century or so of European invasion is most clearly discernible in a range of published scientific texts and private correspondence, in which the writers take great pains to represent body-snatching as a dangerous, even heroic, quest in which the harsh Australian environment and its “treacherous savages” were braved in the quest for “rare and valuable specimens”.

Not only did Aboriginal people resist the desecration of burial sites when they had the power to do so, it is clear that care was taken by communities whose lands had been expropriated to ensure that funerary ceremonies continued. The Sydney naturalist J.S. Bray recorded in 1888 that for many years an Eora woman had visited a burying ground at Middle harbour “every month at full moon only and wept and wailed all night long” (Bray, 1888). Communities took pains to ensure that would-be body-snatchers did not learn the whereabouts of the dead. From the same year as Arawarra’s death, 1825, there survives a diary entry by the missionary Lancelot Threlkeld, recording his attendance at the funeral of a Lake Macquarie woman at the request of her kin. After the grave was filled, one of the mourners approached Threlkeld and “in broken English begged I would not disclose where the body was laid.” In his diary, Threlkeld wrote:

on enquiry for the reason of this injunction they told me that they were afraid that white fellow come and take her head away. They were assured it should not be disclosed by me and apparently satisfied they departed to their camp. The exposure of New Zealander heads for sale at Sydney no doubt is one of the causes of their fear (Threlkeld, 1825)

Threlkeld was subsequently outraged to learn that Aboriginal peoples’ fear also stemmed from “many a grave…[having] been opened” because of the value with which phrenology gave the Aboriginal skull (Gunson, 1974, 1, p. 84).

However, there were a number of colonists and travellers in nineteenth-century Australia who did not share Threlkeld’s concern for the sanctity of the grave. As mentioned above several pastoralists were happy to grant their guests skeletons. Some also shared a knowledge of local death customs gained from witnessing funerary ceremonies. There were medical practitioners in rural districts who robbed the skeletons of their Aboriginal patients before or after burial. More commonly, we find individuals seeking to establish themselves as scientific professionals, or natural history collectors about befriending Aboriginal people and, on learning the location of their burial sites, trying to obtain their skeletons. A.P. Goodwin, a Danish born photographer and taxidermist, was one. Goodwin arrived in Australia from California about 1876, and spent some years working as a photographer and natural history collector, before settling for a time in Lismore. There, Goodwin secretly dug up the grave of a Paikalyug man buried at the edge of the town cemetery, selling the skeleton in a collection of ethnographic objects to the Peabody Museum in 1891 (Dorsey, 1898). He had earlier befriended the man, who was dying of tuberculosis, and taken his portrait for subsequent anthropological comparison with his skull.

The German naturalist Amalie Dietrich was another. She travelled coastal Queensland between 1863 and 1872, as a naturalist for the Godeffroy Museum, Hamburg. Oral testimony collected by historian Ray Sumner tells of Dietrich having shocked William Archer, a local pastoralist, by asking his help to obtain the “pelt” of an Aborigine. Archer had his overseer immediately drive his guest back to Rockhampton (Sumner, 1985, pp. 127) The story passed into local legend, surfacing in H.L. Roth’s 1908 History of Mackay as follows:

The celebrated Godeffroy Museum…had a collector on the coast from 1863 to 1873, who made several ineffectual efforts to induce squatters to shoot an aboriginal, so that she could send the skeleton to the Museum! On one occasion she asked an officer of the Native Police what he would take to shoot so and so, pointing to one of the Native Black Troopers. She got no human skins nor skeletons from the Mackay district.. (Roth, 1908, p. 81).

It seems unlikely that Dietrich asked Archer or one of his workers to kill an Aborigine. What probably so offended Archer, a humanitarian who had good relations with local Aboriginal people, was Dietrich’s utter insensitivity to mortuary custom. In all probability, Aboriginal people of the Rockhampton district posthumously removed skin, dried it and for some time thereafter reverently carried it about their country. Nonetheless, whatever Archer told Dietrich, she sought and finally managed to procure a dried skin from an unknown location, and a skull from the Rockhampton district. And after befriending the Birri Gubba, she procured eight complete skeletons from near Bowen. Back at the Godeffroy Museum, Dietrich was keen to stress to a fellow worker, Alexander Sokolowsky, how hard it had been to procure the various remains, as the Aboriginal people “practised ancestor worship” (Sumner, 1985, p. 328).

One fairly elaborate but by no means unique subterfuge was that resorted to in early 1892 by E.C. Stirling, director of the South Australian museum, and his brother, John, in order to provide E.C. Stirling with skeletons he could present to several British institutions while residing for some months in London. John Stirling owned a property at Mundi Mundi. Knowing the whereabouts of burial sites belonging to the local Aboriginal community, John Stirling sent instructions to the museum that E.C. Stirling wished to have two museum employees come to Mundi Mundi, and, as secretly as possible, obtain several skeletons. The Stirlings were particularly keen to ensure that their

Station people not…appear in the matter…from the fact of our employing a good many Natives and our men doing anything in the matter would probably make them shy of remaining where their last resting place may be disturbed (South Australian Archives GRG 19/24A/1892).

However, Robert Kay, secretary of the South Australian Museum and Library Board, feared that local people would react violently should they discover the museum’s employees at work. He refused to sanction the expedition:

I do not consider that either of the men in question have judgement enough to be trusted in a rather delicate matter as any row or squabble might I suppose have grave consequences (South Australian Archives, GRG 19/14/3/140).

Some evidence suggests that even in districts settled for many years, Aboriginal communities sought to resist body snatching as best they could. In October 1879, K.H. Bennett wrote from Moolah to the curator of the Australian Museum,

You say that Aboriginal relics (Mortuary in particular) a[re] very valuable. – by a strange chance it so happens that within 100 yards of the front door of my house there are about a dozen aboriginal graves and which partly from a disinclination to handle these evidences of mortality and partly from a dread of displeasing the sable descendants of these to us “nameless dead” I have refrained from desecrating. but on the receipt of your letter, and for the cause of science I took pick & shovel (little need for the former tool) and commenced the work of resurrection and in a few minutes, (for some of them were only 5 or 6 inches below the surface) laid bare what had once been a specimen of humanity but was now only a few mouldering bones descendants of these to us “nameless dead” I have refrained from desecrating. (Mitchell Library MSS 563/5/9-19v).

In the Australian Museum correspondence is the following letter from one H.J. McCooey of Burragong, dated 16 November 1892:

The Aborigines of Burragong are terribly annoyed about the remains of that blackfellow which Mr. Etheridge dug up and took to Sydney some few weeks ago. They blame me for doing it; but I can prove I was in Goulburn at the time. They complain bitterly about the outrage – and they undoubtedly regard it as such – and have threatened to do personal violence to whoever committed it. In matters of this kind even the most sensible or “tame” aborigines are singularly morose, superstitious, and treacherous – more so, in fact, [sic] than Europeans. They have gone to Picton to see the Police Magistrate… (Australian Museum Archives Series 9/M/1892/42).

Robert Etheridge, then Assistant Curator, wrote on the letter

Seen – Mr. McCooey appears to be indignant over a very small matter. I am quite prepared to return to the District & investigate several other interesting occurrences known to be there.

Oral history is likely to provide important evidence illustrative of Aboriginal communities concern for the dead. Indeed, what little I have found time to record over the past three years suggests that desecration of graves has long been remembered in many communities. To give one example, Aboriginal people in Brisbane have congregated in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park since the park was first gazetted as a public reserve in the late 1880s. As far as some are concerned the park is not just their land, but a place where their ancestors were buried; one informant was convinced that this was done at the direction of government officials charged with their protection.

In fact, there is oral testimony that the sensitivities of Aboriginal people at remains being kept in museums were on one occasion strategically deployed by one prominent anatomist in an effort to gain control of remains. One reminiscence shared with me by Mr Yeomans, the conservator at Edinburgh’s Anatomy Department, concerned a conversation which allegedly took place in “The Doctors'” – a pub situated just across the road from the Medical School Building. During a friendly session, recalled as having taken place in the early 1960s, N.W.G. Macintosh, Professor of Anatomy of Sydney University, had sought to persuade his Edinburgh colleagues that their Australian skeletal holdings should be given to Sydney University. Macintosh’s scientific justification for having the remains housed, presumably in Sydney University’s Shellshear Museum, could not be remembered. What was remembered by the conservator was his warning that by not taking up his suggestion the Department would, at some point in the future, face Aboriginal demands to have the remains returned to Australia, and that “…these demands would be political.”

III. Sciences Past, Present and Future.

On one point preservationists are right: we cannot draw any simplistic comparisons or continuities between body snatching as it occurred under the impetus of nineteenth-century racial sciences and the views of contemporary preservationists.

Clearly, the aims, assumptions and intellectual products of nineteenth-century anatomy and anthropology were the creations of very different historical contexts. However, by trying to appraise these sciences in historical context we can, arguably, enrich our attempts to make sense, and work towards mutually acceptable resolutions, of the conflicting claims of science and Aboriginal people in respect of remains. In trying to make sense of the present all we have are conceptual options which are the products of history. We can try to make sense of how we think as we do by seeking to understand the conditions in which knowledge has been produced, remained relatively stable or has been subject to unpredictable evolution. In offering plausible accounts of discursive change, dialogue might result in our understanding with greater clarity past shortcomings and what appear to be good future courses of action, even though nothing guarantees that the choices we make will prove to be good (Ball, 1988).

Thus when we look at the often heard claim that historians wrote Aboriginal people out of Australian history, it soon becomes apparent that, since the latter-half of the nineteenth-century, Aboriginal people have not so much been written out of history as written large into other histories, or rather past times, constructed by the sciences of anatomy, physical anthropology, and social anthropology. We would thus do well to use the insights of thinkers like anthropologist Johannes Fabian, to question whether the human sciences in Australia have continued through the course of this century to construe and thereby circumscribe Aboriginality – albeit in an increasingly attenuated fashion – by situating Aboriginal people within “other” categories of time (Fabian, 1983).

By the late 1970s there was indeed a wide conceptual gulf between late nineteenth-century visions of Aboriginal people as relics of a “primitive” or “stone age” race, and archaeological representations of Aboriginal people as the descendants of late pleistocene migrants. Social anthropology’s concern with documentation of “vanishing” social institutions, and from the 1920s, genetic theorising, worked to displaced earlier assumptions of racial typology, and prompted much discussion as to the extent to which earlier concepts of race had masked the cultural construction of human identity. Research became focused on frequencies and patterns of physical characteristics in living Aboriginal populations little affected by European genes. Skeletal material continued to be gathered and examined in the light of these new and more complex understandings of inheritance, particularly with a view to using morphological continuities and variations in remains, to chart the chronology and spread of human occupation of the Australian continent.

Much of this century has seen the quiet deposition in Australia’s museums of remains unearthed by erosion or the bull-dozer. Shire clerks and local police sergeants would be notified that a body had been found, and a quick coronial investigation would determine that the remains were Aboriginal. As by 1900 most state Aboriginal “protection” ordinances construed remains as ethnographic objects or relics, local protectors of Aboriginal people dutifully consigned them by rail to whichever institution the Chief Protector decreed. It was in this way that countless – probably most – skeletons of Aboriginal people found their way into Australian museum collections.

Moreover, researchers who worked with skeletal remains through the decades in which Australia’s federal and state governments pursued policies of protection, and then assimilation, condemned government publicly for the miserable conditions on reserves and fringe- settlements. The gifted anatomist Frederick Wood Jones, for example, was ready to use every forum, including the press, to shame the federal government into taking control of Aboriginal affairs. In 1926 a paper he wrote detailing conditions on northern settlements was refused publication by the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute on the grounds of being “ethical & political…a fiery document”. In 1935 Wood Jones wrote to Adelaide anatomist and anthropologist J.B. Cleland,

…I have not yet turned down an offer from the Amalgamated Press to go all over Australia and write just what I like about what I find; and they will publish it. The offer is – in more ways than one – a very attractive one. Priestly – our Vice Chancellor – is a bit doubtful about my doing it as he is afraid it might involve the university with Government….If I go I shall report exactly what I find & let it rip (Mortlock Library, PRG/9/1).

A later generation of researchers were vocal in support of Aboriginal self-determination and looked forward to an end to racial discrimination in Australia. Indeed, they saw their work, and represented it in popular media and to government, as educating non-Aboriginal Australians to appreciate and respect the richness and complexity of Aboriginal traditions (Mulvaney, 1989).

However, twentieth-century uses of Aboriginal remains have still involved their temporal positioning as objects in scientific discourses in ways which validate an ethic of conservation that seems uncomfortably reminiscent of the concerns of classical social anthropology with recording the “prehistoric” social institutions of the dwindling numbers of “wild aborigines” in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. As Ros Langford, Aboriginal author and activist, has sharply but perceptively identified, time and its construal lies at the heart of the remains controversy:

You seek to say that because you are Australians you have right to study and explore our heritage because it is a heritage shared by all Australians, white and black. From our point of view we say – you have come as invaders, you have tried to destroy our culture, you have built your fortunes upon our lands and the bodies of our people, and now, having said sorry, want a share in picking out the bones of what you regard as a dead past. We say that it is our past, our culture and heritage and forms part of our present life. As such it is ours to share on our terms (Langford, 1983).

Differing assumptions in respect of time and identity probably go a long way to explaining why the primary reactions of researchers to Aboriginal delegations’ strident and sometimes angry demands for the return of skeletal remains were shock and feelings of betrayal. As one anatomical curator despairingly put it to me in 1990, when speaking of demands that his institution’s collection repatriated: “if only they would see how well we’ve looked after them”!

There is moreover a necessity to consider whether, and if so, how shifts in European sensibilities about the continued scientific use of remains are problematic in new respects. Let me return, momentarily, to archaeologist Colin Pardoe’s claim that demands for control and information were “..not something conceptualised by scholars for the good of indigenous people.” Pardoe offers this comment as an interested researcher who, because of his willingness over a decade to acknowledge Aboriginal peoples’ rights to remains and work for them on their terms, has managed to stay in what he has termed the eye of a storm, and “never [become] involved in the bones debate that has torn through archaeology like a cyclone. ” (1989, p. 1). Pardoe’s striking analogy raises the question of how one gets to the eye of a cyclone without experiencing gale, rain and flying debris. One wonders, for example, how much remains unsaid about the intra-disciplinary politics of archaeology/prehistory Pardoe and other researchers sympathetic to Aboriginal peoples’ demands have had to negotiate in order to get to the eye of the storm.

More importantly, while conceding that Pardoe is right in stressing that Aboriginal people have caused winds to blow, we would do well to see that momentum for change has also come from instabilities within the prevailing climate of European opinion. Since the mid- 1970s Australians – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – have grown increasingly aware of their country’s Asian geopolitical situation, and of being economically locked by historical circumstance into reliance on the provision of a limited range of primary resources to increasingly transnational capitalist enterprise. Over the last two decades this economic predicament has had a significant impact upon the average Australian’s material conditions. It has been productive of social distress, uncertainty and critique.

Critique has extended to belated re-appraisal of our colonial past, notably in respect of the destruction of Aboriginal societies. Younger Australians, through reformed school curricula, are now exposed to the work of historians such as the late Charles Rowley (1972) and Henry Reynolds (1981; 1987). They are no longer encouraged to think of the taking of Aboriginal peoples’ land as a sad but inevitable outcome of progress and its attendant benefits coming to a “stone- age” people. In North Queensland, for example, there is a growing appreciation that Aboriginal songs, dance and art have been not simply powerful and useful ways of understanding reality, but sources of hope and comfort in a bitter struggle for over two centuries to preserve Aboriginal identity. This, tragically, is sensed among the racists who remain, inasmuch as the days of physical violence appear to be giving way to the dynamiting of memorials and the spray can desecration of rock art.

A further factor is that non-Aboriginal Australians have not been immune from contemporary western disenchantment with science. As much is clearly discernible in the ways in which the legacy of racial science has been represented in the Australian press in connection with the remains controversy. Tabloids have run “shock horror” disclosures of piles of skulls, some of which, admittedly, have also made tart comments on the good faith of Aboriginal people working for the return of remains. Newspapers with reputations for more neutral reporting have on occasion linked impartial copy to photographs of remains, though in general without realising that Aboriginal people might regard the use of these photographs as no less a pornography than the grand skeletal displays of earlier racial science.

However, most Australian newspapers publishing articles on the return of remains have tended to be fairly sensitive to Aboriginal feelings, using photographs which capture the joy and sadness of Aboriginal people on the return of remains to ancestral land. It is hard not to be deeply moved by some of these photographs, such as the striking image of Ngarinjin Elder David Mowaljarlai nursing remains returned from the Bradford University.

Interestingly, the article which has explored the history of the procurement and scientific use of Aboriginal bodies in greatest depth in fact skilfully reworks stock conventions and imagery of gothic fiction. This was Richard Glover and David Langsam feature article in the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled “Day of Reckoning for Darwin’s Body Snatchers”. This piece starts with a short series of increasingly disturbing vignettes of racial science at work, starting with a portrait of the genial R.J.A. Berry as archetypal mad-scientist:

It is 1907 in the laboratory of the professor of anatomy of Melbourne university, Richard Berry. On his table are the skulls of several Tasmanians exhumed by the professor from an Aboriginal burial ground. Dr Berry turns up each skull and pours lead shot into a measuring beaker to determine each skull’s cubic capacity. He hopes to prove the Tasmanian Aborigines were the missing link between ape and man. In Sydney and Adelaide, Australia’s two other professors of anatomy perform similar work (Glover and Langsam, 1990).

A paragraph later we read:

It is 1869 in the mortuary of Hobart’s colonial Hospital. Dr William Crowther, later Premier of the colony, breaks his way into the room late at night and moves towards the corpse of William Lanne, the last male Tasmanian Aborigine. Assisted by the hospital barber and by his son, Dr Crowther runs his scalpel through the corpse’s neck and head and removes the skull, replacing it with that of a white man. His work, he says, is in the name of science.

History has been suspended. The context of Berry’s interest in ancient migration patterns and the relations between Tasmanian, mainland peoples and Europeans has been lost. So has any sense of the rivalries, ambitions and power-plays amongst the Hobart elite which led William Crowther to hazard his professional and political reputation by mutilating William Lanne’s corpse. The reader is enticed to imagine themselves on a conducted tour through a Victorian wax horror show, in which the secrets of the laboratory and dissection room are revealed in tableau. The article contains much in the way of verifiable historical fact. But in a later column, we read that Matthew Kaufmann, Professor of Anatomy in the University of Edinburgh, refused to provide the Herald with details of research claimed to have recently been done on the University’s Australian skeletal collection. The effect is such as to tempt us to view him as some sort of latter-day Frankenstein.

Whether out of admiration or cultural insecurity, the postmaterialist aspirations of many younger middle class Australians extend to agreeing with Aboriginal people who say that there have been serious ethical shortcomings in the ways in which Europeans science has been understood and used. Some go as far as to seek to embrace Aboriginal peoples’ claims that Europeans have used their knowledge irresponsibly because they have defied or ignored the realm of spirit. This in turn has had some interesting results, notably in the growing acceptance of ideas of cultural episcopacy within church circles, especially in Northern Australia (Brent, 1990).

However, there have also been numerous dubious attempts to appropriate Aboriginal culture, such as those which have been undertaken by non-Aboriginal tourist entrepreneurs in North Queensland and Victoria (Birch, 1992). There are also elements in environmentalist discourse which give cause for concern. Environmentalists, through various organisations, have, through the 1980s, become a very important influence on Australian politics at federal, state and local level. Contrasting the destruction of Australia’s vegetation over two hundred years with Aboriginal peoples’ record of managing the country with relative ecological sensitivity for more than 30000 years, conservationists view Aboriginal self-determination as integral to the creation of more sensible future strategies for environmental management.

There is also a dubious romantic strand to the interpretation of Aboriginal people in the land by some environmentally sensitive Europeans that sometimes seems uncomfortably reminiscent of the Tennysonian reveries of colonists in the 1860s on the passing of the Tasmanian race. Take, for example, the conceptualisation of Aboriginal people which has recently found expression and a wide audience in W.J. Lines, Taming the Great South Land (1991). In Lines’ work, a history of the changes Europeans have wrought on the Australian environment, Aboriginal hunting and gathering technologies are generally described in timeless, utopian terms. Further, a significant portion of the book is taken up with the retelling, from various secondary works, of key episodes in frontier conflict. The resulting narrative effect is to present Aboriginal people during the colonial era as Eden’s outcasts, unable to respond to the vicissitudes of history.

For Aboriginal people, life-ways inherited from generation to generation have probably been as subject as European culture in past eras to conceptual evolution. Key facets of traditional lore have not always enjoyed universal assent. Indeed, it would surprising if through over two hundred years of warfare, dispossession and oppression, Aboriginal language and lore – often hidden from the “white man” – had not changed.

Nonetheless, there are many non-Aboriginal Australians, amongst whom writers like Lines have found an audience, who innocently construe Aboriginal culture in utopian hues, neglecting, or preferring to overlook, its historical dynamism and potential for generating problematic situations – as when Aboriginal people declare that they have the right to take traditional foods from national parks, or the right to exploit mineral resources with value in the market economy.

As I have tried to suggest in this paper, the history of scientific interest in Aboriginal remains affords glimpses of the complexity, dynamism and resilience of Aboriginality. It also seriously challenges the preservationist case that the controversy over the continued use of remains can be decided on scientific grounds. This is not to suggest that history easily resolves matters. If anything, it tends to complicate things, especially given the degree to which evidence of past scientific practice shows the past to have been a very different place. However, the surviving and often fragmentary of the evidence does illustrate how differing conceptualisations of time have, over the course of the past two centuries, been instrumental in European construals of knowledge of Aboriginal identity. It seems worthwhile then to ensure that dialogue continues pragmatically, accepting the complexities and airing the evaluative claims of Aboriginal and western temporality.

Indeed, as the work of Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal museum personnel since the early 1980s demonstrates, where localised, pragmatic approaches to the issue of remains and secret/sacred artefacts have been taken, the result has been the fashioning of policies agreeable to Aboriginal people and researchers. There are still problems to resolve, especially in respect of Aboriginal and Islander participation in shaping future directions in museum exhibition practices and research (Fourmile, 1988). And there is concern amongst Aboriginal and Islander people whether indigenous knowledge is sufficiently valued in the course of formulating research strategies (FAIRA, 1989). But in all fairness, it is clear that many institutions have the will to improve things, but not the necessary resources.

More traditionally minded advocates of the scientific use of ancient remains will probably be unhappy about having to frame research so as to take seriously what, to them, seems opaque and emotional arguments. Some will doubtless continue to use scientific forums and the press to argue that handing remains over to Aboriginal people could spell the end of the scientific study of early man in Australia. The temptation for some will be to present Aboriginal prehistory as a decayed paradigm that Aboriginal people will prevent being revolutionised by techniques of DNA extraction and dating. However, it is worth noting that the surrender of a key elements in the traditional vocabulary of science seems not to have stifled creativity in science, nor to have crippled its potential to respond to Aboriginal needs.

There are a number of researchers like Colin Pardoe and Jeanette Hope and Stehpen Webb who have willingly accepted that accommodations between Aboriginal communities and scientists are likely to be pragmatic and contingent upon researchers continuing to demonstrate responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal communities. Pardoe, for example, has made it clear that he is prepared freely to accept whatever constraints and conditions are placed on his research, and accepts responsibility for ensuring that communities are fully informed of the results of his research (Pardoe, 1989).

Having discussed the issue of the scientific use of remains with Aboriginal people, Stephen Webb has confessed that the more he has listened to Aboriginal people, the harder he has found it to answer their criticism with arguments of equal moral weight (Webb, 1987). To date this appears not to have led Pardoe or Webb to stop work; rather they would seem to be engaged in good science by any conceivable criteria.

Given the marginalisation of Aboriginal knowledge over the last two centuries, it seems appropriate to conclude by citing Koori prehistorian Badger Bates, who, while denying that European science provides grounds for invalidating the significance Aboriginal people attach to ancient remains, does not see respect for the Aboriginal continuum of the land as necessarily heralding the end of scientific study of Aboriginal remains. Rather, it will have to be a necessary precondition if the study of Aboriginal remains is to continue:

I strongly argue that the human fossil remains in Australia do relate to our Aboriginal people of today because of our dreamtime stories that were told by our great grandparents and for thousands of years before, and are still told to our children today….Who do scientists think they are to tell us different and tell us who our ancestors are; because they have not got a dreamtime they should not interfere with ours… If we build up trust in each other and understand each other better, then the study of Aboriginal remains in Australia need not be stopped and the Aboriginal people will still be able to control their heritage (Bates, 1989).


My thanks to Pamela Turnbull, Roslyn Poignant, Rikki Shield, and Russell McGregor for their thoughts on issues addressed in this paper.

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