Ancestral Remains reburial

In a ceremony attended by over 80 people, ten sets of Aboriginal ancestral remains were reburied in the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Port Hedland on Wednesday 24th September 2014. This is a project that has been led by Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Wangka Maya and the Shire of Port Hedland with support from a wide range of community and commercial organisations.


The Ancestral remains, most of which predated European settlement of the Port Hedland area had been returned from various institutions and museums. Remains originally located in Finucane Island were also included in the reburial event as a result of discussions between local Elders and BHP.

On a Monday afternoon, elders transferred the remains into caskets specially made for the reburials. The following day Elders observed while staff of the Shire of Port Hedland dug the 10 burial pits in preparation for a Wednesday ceremony.

The Pilbara Senior Heritage Project Officer co-ordinated the event which was led by Local Kariyarra man Kevin Clifton. Various Elders spoke of the importance of seeing their people returned to country and reburied with respect and their appreciation that Kariyarra people ties to this country were being recognised. The Shire President indicated how pleased he was that the Shire could be part of the process.

The caskets were then laid in the prepared burial pits with heads to west, facing the rising sun to the east. First elders and then all others were invited to pour sand onto the caskets with sand from the Yule River as well as soil from the cemetery area being used.

The ceremony was followed by a morning tea which saw diverse groups within both the Aboriginal and broader Community coming together.

The Kariyarra people and Elders and many other groups that worked together to make this happen with a remarkable level of support from both commercial and community groups. Special acknowledgement goes to Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre, The Town of Port Hedland who provided staff for preparation of the site and refilling of the graves as well as waiving normal charges an event such as this would incur, Zooby Cabinets who made the caskets and provided their premises after hours for preparation of the ancestral remains for reburial, and BHP for the provision of marque's. Above all this was an event for the community and the many Elders who donated time to preparation, monitoring and planning this event is gratefully acknowledged.