The Natural History Museum has today offered to mediate its dispute with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) in the hope that terms for returning the remains of 17 Tasmanian Aboriginal people may be agreed without continuing the legal proceedings initiated by the community group.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre initiated legal action earlier this month to contest the Museum's November decision - based on advice from its independent Human Remains Advisory Panel and DCMS guidelines - to return permanently the remains following a period of data collection.
Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, comments: 'This is an enormously complicated issue. We have strived throughout to balance two very different opinions of what is the right thing to do - on the one hand returning the remains to the country of origin; on the other using this invaluable and unique resource for scientific research. We are confident that we have acted with integrity and transparency throughout and at all stages we have recognised the importance of the cultural and religious beliefs of Tasmanian aboriginals. This is precisely why our Trustees decided to return these remains.
However, the Museum's founding principle is the generation of knowledge to promote the discovery and understanding of the natural world for the benefit of humanity. For this reason we have stood by our decision to return the remains following completion of data collection. The remains represent a human population from a time when Tasmania was isolated from the rest of the world and this scientific information gathered from them could enable future generations to understand more about how their ancestors lived, where they came from and ultimately provide a fascinating chapter in the story of what it means to be human'.
Notes for editors
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