Indigenous communities reclaim their past for their future

25 Jun 2024

Located within The Australian National University (ANU) College of Health and Medicine, the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG) aims to establish a national resource for appropriate and respectful genetic and genomic research that will benefit Indigenous Australians. Historical biological samples are repatriated in line with community wishes, working with community leaders to map out the many cultural considerations needed to return the samples in an honoured and respectful way. Data collection is also used in research for projects enhancing health outcomes for Indigenous Australians through the avenues of DNA, genetics, and genomics research.

Ross Mandi Wunungmurra, a distinguished Yolngu man, was wholly dedicated to instigating real change, unity, and progress in his community. His advocating for the benefits of genomics for his people, and for the repatriation of samples collected from members of his community over 50 years ago, led to the return of over 200 Yolngu samples in 2019. In 2023, thanks to donor support, a fund has been set up to honour his legacy.

The R M Wunungmurra Community Repatriation Fund was established to further support NCIG’s efforts in the repatriation of biological samples to Indigenous communities. The ANU donor community can now join in honouring Mr Wunungmurra’s legacy by supporting the fund and empowering NCIG to continue this vital work, returning samples to their rightful place and perpetuating Mr Wunungmurra’s vision of unity and progress for generations to come.

NCIG is overseen by an Indigenous-led governance board and is providing a model for international best practice for the collection, use and storage of biospecimens from Indigenous communities. Repatriation efforts like those led by Mr Wunungmurra can be expensive, but the R M Wunungmurra Community Repatriation Fund will assist with these costs.

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