Returning to Yarluwar-Ruwe: Repatriation as a Sovereign Act of Healing

Steve Hemming, Daryle Rigney, Major Sumner, Luke Trevorrow, Laurie Rankine Jr, Chris Wilson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


For Ngarrindjeri, the repatriation (return to Country) of Old People (‘human remains’) from national and international institutions is fundamentally interconnected with nation (re)building, just settlement, and ultimately the pursuit of wellbeing. It is Ngarrindjeri responsibility to bring the Old People home to Yarluwar-Ruwe (Sea Country) - a responsibility that unsettles contemporary narratives of Australian nationhood and directly connects Ngarrindjeri pasts, presents, and futures. While Yarluwar-Ruwe remains defined and controlled by the settler-State, not understood as a Ngarrindjeri living body, the spirits and the ‘remains’ of the Old People will not be at peace. In this chapter, we consider the Ngarrindjeri approach to bringing Old People back to Yarluwar-Ruwe as a process of research, negotiation, translation, healing, self-determination, and ‘restoring dignity’. Our discussion follows the Ngarrindjeri Yannarumi (Speaking as Country) methodology for guiding actions in matters that impact the wellbeing of Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar-Ruwe. This Ngarrindjeri way of being is non-humanist, understands the ethics of interconnectedness and reciprocity, and has guided Ngarrindjeri leaders through the intensities of colonisation. Through elected leaders, Ngarrindjeri have ‘identified, organised and acted’ as a First Nation, asserting responsibility for all aspects of the repatriation process. In this chapter, we hope our research findings will further dialogue between First Nations about the relationship between repatriation, sovereignty, healing, and wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Indigenous Repatriation
Subtitle of host publicationReturn, Reconcile, Renew
Editors Cressida Fforde, C. Timothy McKeown, Honor Keeler
Place of PublicationAbington, Oxon, UK
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780203730966
ISBN (Print)9781138303584
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Ngarrindjeri
  • Repatriation
  • South Australia
  • Burial grounds


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