Coroner finds human remains from Tasmania’s west coast are Indigenous and over 1000 years old, sparking call for investigation: NITV

A coroner has determined remains found near Low Rocky Point on Tasmania’s West Coast are that of an Aboriginal person. (Image: Dan Arnold Hiking)

A Coroner has determined human remains found protruding from a sand bank on Tasmania’s west coast eight years ago are that of an Aboriginal person who died at least 1,100 years ago.

The remains, which include a left and right femur and right radius bone were found by a fisherman at Shank, approximately 6.5 nautical miles north of Low Rocky Point on the west coast of Tasmania.

After being handed in to police and subsequently examined by forensic anthropologist, Dr Anne-Marie Williams, original estimates placed the remains belonged to a person who died “at least 20 years ago and possibly up to 100+ years ago”.

“The remains of that of an adult, the epiphyses are fused and a lack of degenerative changes suggestive this person was a younger to middle-aged adult. Measurement of the bones are inconclusive indicating that the remains are within the range of an Aboriginal male, a Caucasian male or a Caucasian female,” Dr Wiliams’ report read.

At the time, Coroner Simon Cooper determined it “impossible” to complete further identification or cause of death, suggesting it “absurd” to have considered the remains as Aboriginal only based on Dr Williams’ report.

However following developments in the National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons enabled further forensic biological investigations to be carried out.

In his ruling, Coroner Cooper said results from tests carried out on the remains after they were sent to the National lab in September, 2022 enabled him to form the view that the remains are of an Aboriginal person.

“Late last year I received a report which indicated that further mitochondrial DNA testing had obtained a profile which suggested the presence of an S haplogroup found in Aboriginal Australians,” Coroner Coopers ruling read.

The treatment of the remains have angered the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s campaign manager, Nala Mansell. (Image: Sarah Maunder)

“Furthermore, radiocarbon dating of the remains indicated that they were much older than previously thought, dating from between 772 and 890 AD and were therefore pre-European.”

After concluding the remains as Aboriginal, Coroner Cooper referred the matter to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, the relevant Aboriginal organisation approved by the Tasmanian Attorney General as per the Coroners Act 1995.

The treatment of the remains has angered Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre campaign manager, Nala Mansell who told The Mercury she was disappointed the remains were subjected to “invasive scientific testing” without permission whilst accusing the Coronial Division of being “completely insensitive to Aboriginal spiritual and cultural belief” in publishing the findings without the Aboriginal community consent.

“We know that our ancestors’ spirits can’t be laid to rest until they’re in their traditional homelands,” Ms Mansell told The Mercury.

“We also don’t agree with all the different scientific testing on the remains of our old people – but they’ve done that without letting us know.

“It’s just a reminder that colonisation continues to this day. For the past 200 years, the remains of our old people have been disrespected, dug up, tested – and white people have maintained control over the bodies of our ancestors.

“It’s disappointing to see that nothing has changed in the past 200 years.”

Ms Mansell said the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre intended to contact the Attorney-General seeking a full investigation into how the remains had been dealt with.

Click here to read the original article on the NITV website.