Chrissy spends decades to find Woppaburra ancestor in UK

Malcolm Wells

FOR decades, Chrissy Hansen-Doherty has been on a "personal quest" to understand her elders' history and repatriate those whose remains were taken from sacred ground.

The Woppaburra elder has taken part in the repatriation of over 30 of her ancestors to North Keppel Island since the 1980s.

Yet there were two ancestors, whose remains were sent to England in the 1920s, Ms Hansen-Doherty said she wasn't sure she would be able to find.


Woppaburra elder Chrissy Hansen-Doherty.
Woppaburra elder Chrissy Hansen-Doherty. VALERIE HORTON

On Friday, Ms Hansen-Doherty finally got the news which left her speechless.


But it came with a bittersweet twist.

A letter dated February 2, 1928 shows the remains of a male and female were sent to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Curators from London's Natural History Museum confirmed one of the ancestors was still in the museum's collection.

The second ancestor's remains were destroyed when the Royal College of Surgeons was bombed in the Second World War.

Ms Hansen-Doherty said she was working with the Australian High Commission in Canberra and London to repatriate her ancestor and given them a dignified and sacred burial.

"We're feeling so many mixed emotions because we didn't think we'd ever find them and we never gave up," Ms Hansen-Doherty said.

"We're all pretty speechless that we've actually found them.

"It's been my life's work finding and researching my ancestor's history."

She said the discovery of where the remains were had happened in the past two weeks, with confirmation coming on Friday.

"This is historic for the whole community," Ms Hansen-Doherty said.

"I don't think people know what we've had to endure during these repatriations.

"These are the last remains now and all our old people will be here, buried on country.

"This is not only about an historic moment for Woppaburra; it's an historic moment for the whole community to enjoy with us."

Ms Hansen-Doherty said a delegation of Woppaburra people planned to travel to London to receive the remains and escort them home.

While there, she said the delegation would lay a flower wreath in the Aboriginal national colours at the site of the Second World War bombing.

Indigenous Repatriation

For over 150 years, ancestral remains and sacred objects were removed from communities and placed in museums and private collections in Australia and overseas

Topics:  north keppel island woppaburra

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