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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 158

(Question No. 876)


Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, upon notice, on 13 December 1993:

  With reference to each instance where the Government or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has funded, either in part or in full, efforts to retrieve remains of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestors:

  (1) What was the purpose of the trip.

  (2) What were the dates of travel.

  (3) What were the destinations involved.

  (4) What was the number of persons involved, their city or town of residence, and their role in the exercise.

  (5) Please provide a breakdown of the amounts of money expended in each case on: (a) air travel; (b) accommodation; (c) meals; and (d) other miscellaneous costs (please provide a description of any miscellaneous costs).


Senator Collins —The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question.

  During the period of the present Keating Government I am advised there has been one instance where the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has provided financial assistance to retrieve remains of an Aboriginal ancestor from overseas.

  This occurred when, during October 1993, the embalmed body of an Aboriginal person was placed in the care of a coroner in Cleveland, United States. The body was of a Palm Island man who, along with at least eight others, had been removed from Australia during the early 1880s by an American travelling circus to tour North America and Europe. The man, who was a member of the Manbara Aboriginal peoples of Palm Island and known by the circus as Tambo, had died of influenza on 23 February 1884 but had not been buried in the United States.

  Arrangements for the body to be returned to Australia were made with the full co-operation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The traditional funeral of the Manbara man will take place on Palm Island on 23 February 1994, exactly 110 years after his death.

  (1) The purpose of the trip to the United States was to accept custody of the body, and to accompany it on its return to Townsville, and subsequently in 1994 to Palm Island.

  (2) The trip took place between 5—10 December 1993.

  (3) It was a return trip to Cleveland, United States.

  (4) Three members of the Manbara Aboriginal peoples, including two who were known to be direct descendants of the Palm Island man, travelled to Cleveland to perform an appropriate traditional mortuary ceremony at the time of accepting custody of the body. These men originated from Palm Island, and two now live in Townsville.

  (5) Because of the currency of this trip, and the standard ATSIC requirement that the grant (of $17 500) for this purpose be acquitted within three months, I am unable to provide at this time the details which the honourable senator requested. These may be obtained in due course directly from ATSIC.