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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Museum returns Aboriginal skulls
Custodian Major Sumner collects the remains
Custodian Major Sumner collected the remains from the museum
A museum has returned four Aboriginal skulls, collected 100 years ago, to tribal elders.

Manchester Museum in England handed over the remains to a delegation of Aborigines so they can be buried in Australia.

A worldwide campaign is under way to return human remains taken from graves and mortuary slabs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The return was agreed by the University of Manchester and the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA).

Bob Weatherall, from FAIRA, said: "This will end the practice of scientific investigations and maintaining aboriginal ancestors in cardboard boxes, plastic bags and vaults in museums."

Manchester Museum agreed in 1992 to hand back the skulls, but it has taken 11 years to organise.

We now put an end to the torment
Major Sumner
Ngarrindjeri nation
Tristram Besterman, director of the Manchester Museum, said: "These remains were removed during the colonial era at a time of great inequality of power.

"Their removal more than a century ago was carried out without the permission of the Aboriginal nations, and have been held in the Manchester Museum ever since, in violation of the laws and beliefs of indigenous Australian people. "

The skulls will be flown to Sydney and then on to Canberra where they will be ceremonially buried.

Aborigines believe the spirits of their people cannot rest in peace until their bones are laid in their native ground.

Major Sumner, from the Ngarrindjeri nation in South Australia, said: "The torment is ended, we now put an end to the torment.

"We are taking them home to our traditional lands."

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