The proposed burial of 108 Aboriginal ancestral remains, including Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, at Mungo National Park in NSW will require formal assessment under national environment law after a determination made by Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
Minister Ley found the NSW Government proposal to rebury some of the oldest Homo Sapiens remains in the world was likely to have an impact on the national and world heritage values of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area in south west NSW. The matter will now be assessed as a ‘controlled action’ under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The proposal to rebury in unmarked graves the ancestral remains, which are considered to be integral to the Outstanding Universal Value of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, was made after significant consultation between the NSW Government and the Aboriginal Advisory Group (AAG).
“I appreciate the deep cultural sensitivities on all sides of this debate and believe the matter requires careful consideration as a ‘controlled action’ under the national environmental law,” Minister Ley said.
“These are some of the most important and unique human remains in the world, and through the AAG, Traditional Owners have expressed their wish to see the remains returned to their resting place.
“This will be a further chance for the community to put forward their views, and to understand the deeply held views on the issue and I will be travelling to the area to personally meet with Traditional Owners and community members.
“The assessment and approval process set out under national environment law is open and thorough and will take into account expert scientific advice and public comments including the views of Traditional Owners.”
The NSW Government will be required to conduct further consultation under the EPBC Act, which will include a 20 business day public comment period.