External investigation launched into ‘unauthorised’ Mungo Man reburial

By Anna Macdonald

May 30, 2022

Linda Burney
Incoming Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

An external investigation is underway into the reburial of the remains of the Mungo Man and Mungo Lady.

The 42,000-year-old remains were reburied last Tuesday, despite an injunction by Indigenous groups to delay the burial.

“The NSW Government did not authorise, conduct, or endorse the removal and subsequent burial of any remains on 24 May, and an external investigation is now underway into the removal of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady’s remains and their reburial,” a Heritage NSW spokesperson said in a statement. 

The remains of 106 other bodies remain in storage, with a new security arrangement in place, according to the spokesperson. 

The spokesperson acknowledged the matter is sensitive, and ‘appears to involve a dispute within Aboriginal communities’.

The initial plans for the reburial were approved by the Willandra Lakes Region Aboriginal Advisory Group (AAG).

An Indigenous group filed an injunction to prevent the planned reburial earlier last week. The reburial was intended to be delayed until the incoming federal minister could evaluate the injunction application.

The location of the reburial was announced by then environmental minister Sussan Ley a few weeks ago. With Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yet to announce his full ministry, it is not yet known who will replace Ley as Environment minister. 

Incoming Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has commented on the incident.

“We have just written to the NSW department asking them for very pointed details about what actually took place,” Burney told the ABC

Federal approval was required for the reburial, as the location was within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the reburial was a ‘controlled action’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Last week, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) said it had been informed the reburial had taken place despite having earlier been told it would not be occurring and that the NSW government was assessing the situation.

The Mungo Man and Mungo Lady were discovered in 1968 and 1974, respectively in the southwest of the state. Since then, the remains have been stored in places such as a storeroom at the Mungo Visitor Centre. 


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