14 Dec 2006

Papua skull to be returned from Australia to Asmat people

12:02 pm on 14 December 2006

Australia's Ministry of the Environment and Heritage says a culturally significant skull from Papua that was smuggled into Australia last year will be returned to Papua.

Through its Quarantine service, the federal government seized the Asmat Skull in 2005 after it was illegally imported into the country.

The head of Heritage Assessment in the ministry, Terry Bailey, says under an international convention, Australia is obliged to return the seized skull.

He says it has been painted with what appears to be ochre and displays a braided headband of feathers, a large ornament similar to a boar's tusks and other ornamentation including seeds and beads.

Mr Bailey says the skull is an important reminder of traditional head-hunting practices.

"The Indonesian Ambassador expressed his appreciation to the Australian government for returning the skull that was an important part of the heritage of the Asmat people of Papua. And he indicated that the Indonesian government would return the skull to the Asmat people in Papua."

Terry Bailey of Australia's Ministry of Heritage