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Bob Weatherall (The Catholic Leader/Michael Howard)

Kamilaroi elder Bob Weatherall has spent more than 40 years lobbying for the repatriation of remains of Indigenous Australians held in museums and universities. Source: The Catholic Leader.

“Moving the issue forward and getting things done in government and trying to get them to realise that there’s a violation of rights, it was tough,” Mr Weatherall said.

“We had no ownership, no control, no management of our ancestors… they were in cardboard boxes, plastic bags, it was barbaric.”

On June 5, Mr Weatherall spoke to a sold out crowd at Evangelisation Brisbane’s Laurel Blow Speaker Event 2024.

“There’s an enormous amount of anguish with Aboriginal men and women who can’t fulfil their customary last rites,” he said.

“And the whole thing is just bureaucratic, it’s just people beating around the bush. And that’s why we’re here.”

He said the scientific community took advantage of Indigenous Australians’ lack of recognition, exhuming and stealing tens of thousands of remains during the colonial period.

Indigenous Australians were then studied to promote racist evolutionary theories, he said.

“There was a concentration on skulls and thousands went overseas and are in the Royal College of Surgeons, the Edinburgh Medical Schools and the Natural History museums,” he said.

Mr Weatherall also lobbies for the return of 11,000 unprovenanced remains held throughout Australian institutes. 

These are remains of Indigenous Australians that were not properly recorded, whose traditional country is unknown, he said.

Over the last 40 years, Mr Weatherall has seen a change in the way these institutes approached repatriation. But he said the journey was not over until all remains were “returned home.”

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge thanked everyone who made the Evangelisation Brisbane event possible.

“Listening to Bob, I thought how different the Western scientific view of the world, the earth and the human being are from the richer and more mysterious sense of the Indigenous peoples, whose understandings are closer to the Bible,” he said in a follow-up message to Brisbane Archdiocese.


Bob Weatherall is fighting to see the remains of Indigenous Australians returned home (By Michael Howard, The Catholic Leader)