Tasmanian Aboriginal people are “saddened and sickened” after they claim they were not consulted as required when police declared a skull found on a Tasmanian beach was probably of Aboriginal origin.
Police said after preliminary examination, the human remains found at Lauderdale Beach near Hobart were possibly “decades old” and were “Aboriginal in origin”.
The discovery was made by a local resident while walking dogs just before 8:00pm on Sunday.
Police said a “further forensic examination by an anthropologist is scheduled for tomorrow”.
The ABC understands the skull was removed from the location where it was found, with photos of the remains shared on a Tasmanian Facebook page.
The photos were later deleted from the page.
‘People are heart-sick about this’, says Sculthorpe
The Tasmanian Aboriginal community is outraged about Tasmania Police’s handling of the issue.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s (TAC) Heather Sculthorpe said police had not been in touch, despite photos of the skull appearing on social media last night, and Tasmania Police announcing it was of Aboriginal origin on its Facebook page.
“It’s sickening, people have interfered with our old people’s remains. People are heart-sick about this. It’s such an interference in what is probably a burial ground,” she said.
“We have been denied the opportunity to even look at where the remains were found.”
She said the Coroners Act required the police to contact an Aboriginal organisation when remains may be Aboriginal.
“If the police report on social media is right, they’ve engaged an anthropologist, which is totally against the legislation and against Aboriginal protocols,” Ms Sculthorpe said.
“It’s for the Aboriginal community to decide if these are Aboriginal remains, and then the coroner has no jurisdiction
“People are angry and sick of being ignored, especially when it comes to our old people.”
TAC demands help from Police Commissioner
Ms Sculthorpe said she wanted the Police Commissioner to intervene and help them track down and get access to the remains of one of their ancestors.
She said the community won the right to be informed in 1995 of these kind of finds, and this episode was a return to the days of bad relations between police and Aboriginal people.
“We’ve been referred on, and referred on, but there’s no-one who admits to having any information despite the fact there’s been media releases on the police Facebook page,” she said.
Ms Sculthorpe said this could be a whole new burial area the community did not know about, and it had been a “lot of years now” since remains had been stumbled upon.
While she said she was appalled that someone would pick up the skull, take it home and send out pictures, Ms Sculthorpe has the Government and the police firmly in her sights.
“It leaves you speechless. That person has committed offences under the Aboriginal Protection Act, but its mostly the state authorities that bear the brunt of responsibility in this one,” she said.