Leading institutions in Tasmania have formally apologised to the island's Aboriginal community for the exploitation, misuse and theft of remains and significant artworks.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Royal Society of Tasmania on Monday held a ceremony to acknowledge "200 years of morally wrong practices".
"We acknowledge the Royal Society exhumed and purchased remains of Aboriginal people for scientific study, some of which were sent out of the country," Royal Society president Mary Koolhof said.
"There was a lack of regard for (their) deep cultural and spiritual significance. For this we are sorry".
The apology comes amid the museum's impending return of 14,000-year-old Indigenous petroglyphs to their home at Preminghana in the state's far northwest.
The rock carvings and artwork, which document major cultural events and great warriors, were cut from cliffs in the 1960s without consultation.
The state government late last year approved the return of the petroglyphs after a decades-long fight from members of the Indigenous community.
"Generations carved events that occurred. (They) were not intended to be cut away and taken to white peoples' museums," Aboriginal Land Council chairman Michael Mansell said.
Museum chair Brett Torossi said Aboriginal history had too often been "hidden, forgotten or denied".
The remains of famous Indigenous woman Truganini were displayed at the museum from 1904-47 after being exhumed despite her wish to be buried in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
Her remains were returned to the Aboriginal community in 1976, one hundred years after she died.
"All of these actions have been damaging. We understand Tasmanian Aboriginal people may not wish to accept our apology," Ms Torossi said.
Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Mansell described the apology as a turning point but called for further action, including the return of other petroglyphs and crown land to Aboriginal people.
Indigenous man Rodney Gibbons said the day was as much about his old people as those around today.
"This is a momentous day for the Aboriginal community. I believe it's up to all of us to consider their apologies with open hearts and open minds," he said.
"The story of the Aboriginal community has been one of struggle and denial. But despite the obstacles put in front of us we have survived."
The Royal Society of Tasmania was set up in 1843 for the "advancement of knowledge" and collected thousands of natural items including Aboriginal remains.
The museum says it will work with the Aboriginal community on initiatives to tell first peoples' stories.
Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein said he fully supported the apology, noting a review was under way into laws around the return of Indigenous artefacts.
Australian Associated Press
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