Elders express 'shock and anger' over unauthorised burial of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady
[by Richard Lenarduzzi]
Traditional Mutthi Mutthi, Barkindji/Paakantji and Ngiyampaa Elders have expressed their shock and dismay that the 42,000 year-old remains of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady have been secretly reburied in unknown graves in NSW.
The Elders say the ‘horrific, criminal act’, removing the remains from a secure vault in the Mungo National Park Visitor Centre, under the supervision of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, was in clear defiance of an urgent Section 9 Application lodged on behalf of the Elders challenging the burial plan.
On 20 May, the Elders wrote to former Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley and NSW Environment Minister James Griffin seeking an assurance that the Department ‘not proceed with the reburial for a period of at least 14 days to enable our Application’. They received that assurance from the Department of Planning and Environment on 23 May 2022 with confirmation that “the burials will not proceed tomorrow while your client’s application is being considered.”
Mutthi Mutthi Member Jason Kelly, a spokesperson for the Applicant group, said they only became aware that the remains of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady had been removed from a locked Park visitor centre and reburied yesterday.
“This is an outrage against our culture, our heritage, our history, our People. We want to know how this has happened and who is responsible for this desecration,” Mr Kelly said.
“We have long-objected to the delay in the reburial of the remains and reminded them of the obligation to seek our consent, but they have ignored us and gone ahead and desecrated Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, the most important human remains ever found in Australia.
“This is just so disrespectful on all fronts and goes against the wishes of hundreds of past and present Elders who have pleaded for a culturally-appropriate reburial for our ancestors.
“It’s a disgrace and another example of cultural mismanagement by government authorities, just Juukan Gorge.
“We now call on the NSW Environment Minister James Griffin to urgently investigate. He must find what the justification was for going ahead with these secret reburials in unknown locations and why it was done in defiance of our urgent Court Application for further community consultation.
“We call on the Minister to tell us where the remains are now buried, so that we can provide Mungo Man and Mungo Lady with a culturally-appropriate public memorial on Country, as our past and present Elders had wanted.”
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