The Institute Times

Ken Colbung – first Aboriginal Chairperson of AIATSIS Council

Ken Colbung – also known by his Aboriginal name, Nundjan Djiridjarkan – was a Nyungah man who became the first Indigenous chairperson of AIATSIS in 1984. He was awarded an Order of Australia Merit and an Order of the British Empire for his devotion to Aboriginal affairs encompassing areas such as land rights, conservation, education and the preservation of cultural identity and spirituality. His most famous campaign is his successful repatriation of Yagan's remains. Yagan was an Aboriginal warrior of the Nyungah people who was killed and beheaded by colonial settlers after leading a resistance to British rule in the area.

Ken was instructed by his elders in the 1950s to find Yagan's remains which, after being displayed in London and Liverpool as an 'anthropological curiosity', were buried in an unmarked grave in England. Gatecrashing a visit to London by then Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1997, Ken was successful in lobbying for the return of Yagan's remains which now lay in rest in Nyungah country in the Swan Valley.

Ken Colbung reflects for British journalists on the Aboriginal rights movement and the significance of Yagan.

Source: AIATSIS Moving Image Collection, Ken Colbung returning Yagan’s Remains, ORMOND_PARKER_L001, DAC0000158_0001-0003