The Natural History Museum says that under British law, it is unable to dispose of any items in its collection unless they are damaged, duplicates, or unfit for scientific research.


But an Aboriginal delegation visiting London this week has launched a campaign to force the museum and others, holding the remains of 450 Aborigines for scientific research, to change its policy.

One of the delegates, Bob Weatherall, says they want to remind Mr Blair of his three-year old agreement to further repatriation efforts between Britain and aboriginal people.

“He really does need to act and take possession of the remains outside of those institutions who are basically unwilling to repatriate the remains. And I think that John Howard should probably make contact again, and say “Come on Tony, get your act together, start doing something, we do have an agreement”.”

Mr Weatherall, from the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, says following the publicity of their visit, they have been approached by several more museums and collectors offering to return aboriginal remains.

A museum spokeswoman says it’s bound by the British Museum Act 1963 to preserve its collections and it’s therefore not able to return human remains unless under specific provisions of the Act.

But she says the museum is committed to discussing the subject of returning human remains to their areas of origin.

Mr Weatherall says the museum needs to realise is has no right to hold on to anyone’s remains.

“They must realise that they are in violation of our basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, just on the basis of the economical, social, cultural and political right, and the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. They are in breach, and they are acting illegally. And they are supposed to be responsible. And each government ought to be accountable, and each institution ought to be accountable, and recognise the rights of indigenous people and they should return our ancestors and our secret sacred objects.”

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