Indigenous Queenslanders are preparing to reclaim sacred artefacts stolen by the British more than a century ago.

Manchester Museum has returned 43 sacred ceremonial items to mark the 250th anniversary next year of Captain James Cook's first voyage to Australia.

The Gangalidda and Garawa communities of far north Queensland will welcome the artefacts home in a special cultural ceremony on Wednesday at Burketown, near the Northern Territory border.

The artefacts range from traditional body ornaments and slippers to a churinga, a wood or stone item believed to embody the spiritual double of a relative or ancestor.

Many of the items cannot be photographed, seen or touched by non-Indigenous people.

One of the few items that can be shown is a ceremonial headpiece made of Emu or bird feathers which is used for initiation ceremonies.

Around 32,000 items belonging to Aboriginal people have so far been identified as being held in UK museums, along with 220 institutions across the world that have collections.

Manchester Museum has held some of the material since the 1920s.

It is the first museum in Europe to begin the repatriation process in a project in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.


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