A NEW documentary is shedding light on the theft of thousands of human remains across Australia.
Returning Our Ancestors charts the ongoing human cost of the many pilfered grave sites and unaccounted for remains.
The documentary does not feature central Victorian descendants but could help draw attention to many of the region's Indigenous ancestors.
Many vanished without families-informed consent over the centuries.
They were used in exhibitions or added to scientific collections.
Others ended up in people's sheds and passed on to their own family members.
The Bendigo Advertiser is itself in the midst of a separate search for six Indigenous skulls that were donated to a Bendigo museum in the 1890s.
Two skulls thought to be ancestors' remains were at the McCrae Street site until at least 1960, this newspaper has previously revealed.
Sean Fagan is among those who spoke about his work helping museums return ancestors to Country with the makers of Returning Our Ancestors.
He recounted a confronting moment during one of his early assignments.
"The main thing that sparked me was seeing a cardboard box and ... seeing babies' skulls in there," he said.
"That, to me, just having a young child of my own, I just thought well, that's not right ... Why did this happen?"
Racquel Kerr is part of the Dja Dja Wurrung and a senior member of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council's ancestral remains unit.
She said returning ancestors helped descendants and the Country they belong to heal.
"If Country is sick, we feel that sickness. If there is hurt that is amongst our community, we share that hurt and it only makes sense that we cannot rest until ancestors can rest in their rightful place," Ms Kerr said.
"It is our cultural responsibility."
Ms Kerr said that people would not be made to feel guilt or pressure when they were ready to come forward with ancestral remains.
She said many people had inherited the remains from earlier generations.
"There's a greater goal to community to be able to return ancestors, so we willingly work with people who have them to confirm that they are in fact Aboriginal Ancestral Remains.
"It's a sensitive space and topic - so we only progress when the community is ready."
More from the Advertiser's investigation:
The half-hour documentary can be viewed free of charge by visiting the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council's website.
Discoveries of human remains must be reported to the coroner or a police officer in charge of a police station.
If you believe they are Aboriginal ancestral remains you should report them to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council as soon as possible.
Its ancestral remains unit can be reached at 03 7004 7198 or email@example.com
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