Australia’s oldest known human remains will be returned home next month along with a public celebration and the Mungo Man Return To Country festival.

In 1974 geologist Jim Bowler discovered the bones of 42,000 year-old Mungo Man, as he's called, near Mildura in Western New South Wales (NSW) Australia.

Mungo Lady was discovered by archeologist John Mulvaney and Bowler in 1969. These historical discoveries were a defining moment in Australia’s history, as they proved that human occupancy of Australia went back beyond 40,000 years. They also led UNESCO to declare the Willandra Lakes area, where the remains were found, as a protected heritage area.

A ceremony in 1992 marked the repatriation of Mungo Lady and now finally, it is Mungo Man’s turn to return home.

Both discoveries mark the oldest human remains ever found in Australia and are the oldest modern humans found outside of Africa.

Once uncovered, the remains of Mungo Man were held at Australian National University in Canberra for the next 40 years.

In 2015 Mungo Man was officially handed back to traditional owners. Since then, there has been drawn out discussions between government departments and traditional owners regarding the next steps in repatriating Mungo Man’s remains.

The Australian Government Department of Energy and Environment, have now released the plan for Mungo Man’s final journey home. Next month Mungo Man will travel from Canberra accompanied by traditional owners, and security, back to Lake Mungo where he was originally discovered.

Departing mid-November from the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, a small departure ceremony will be held by the Ngunnawal people of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The journey will take three days and stop in towns including Hay and Balranald, where welcome to country ceremonies will be held.

Mungo Man will be held in "secure storage" at Mungo National Park, with details of the final resting place not yet decided on.

Mutthi Mutthi elder Patricia Winch, a member of the Willandra Lakes Aboriginal Advisory Group committee, told The Canberra Times, "It's good to have him brought back to country," but she also commented that nothing would feel complete until the remains were reburied.

"It's not really complete until he's back in the ground and I'm hoping that will be sooner rather than later."

A public event will be held in the nearby town of Mildura to commemorate Mungo Man’s arrival. The event was requested by The Aboriginal Advisory Group (AAG) to the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, who also asked that entry be free for all those who would like to attend. Headlining the concert will be Indigenous Australian Singer Songwriter, Archie Roach.

Event organisers are holding a  Pozible crowdfunding campaign to raise money to put on the event and to bring Aboriginal leaders from around the country together for this important commemoration.

This journey to take Mungo Man home is a historical moment for Indigenous Australians. According to Dwayne Mallard, Return to Country, Cultural Collaborator, it marks a moment of great healing.

"A very special moment in time, not just for the community on this country but for all Australia.” he said.

This long awaited moment is also important in the journey to reconciliation between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians as it recognises Aboriginal Australians as the oldest living culture on Earth.

“This is for blackfellas and whitefellas, to make things better. For us whitefellas to heal the damage, the wreckage, to start to understand deeply what it means to be an Australian.

The Return to Country of Mungo Man is a good place to express our commitment and support the local community." said Shane Howard, Return to Country Creative Director.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including goal number 10, reducing inequalities. Essential to reducing inequalities in Australia is the process of reconciliation and closing the gap. You can take action here.


Demand Equity

Australia's Oldest Human Remains Finally Return Home Marking a Historical Moment in Australia’s Reconciliation

By Marnie Cunningham