After nearly two centuries, Indigenous artefacts gifted to German missionaries have finally been returned to Kaurna land.

A handover occurred at a smoking ceremony held in Adelaide that was attended by Aboriginal elders, as well as Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock.

The four cultural heritage items — a kathawirri (sword), tantanaku (club or bark peeler), wirnta (spear) and wikatyi (net) — are considered highly significant for Kaurna people and are more than 180 years old.

A smoking ceremony in Adelaide marked the return of the artefacts from Germany.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

The gifts were collected around 1840 by the Lutheran Mission Society and sent to the German city of Dresden, and then later put on display at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig.

Ms Baerbock said that it was important for Germany to give back the culturally significant items to Australia.

“[It’s important] to be open [and] reflective about our own past and to be willing to listen to those who suffered the loss of their cultural heritage during European colonisation,” she said.

“Sharing our history is sometimes painful, but it’s needed for building our future together.”

Annalena Baerbock and Penny Wong attended the ceremony.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

Senior Kaurna man Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien said a letter was discovered by the Dresden Mission Society which created an opportunity for the artefacts to be returned.

“We found some letters that referenced these items going to Germany in 1840 and through that we took a visit with the language group to Germany,” he said.

“From that we continue to build upon the relationship.

“Our people were always about bringing cultures together.”

Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien said the discovery of a letter led to the return of the artefacts.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

Mr O’Brien said the items had originally been given as gifts to German missionaries, whom he said recorded “some 3,000 words” which later created an “opportunity to reclaim our language”.

Mr O’Brien described the ceremony as a “celebration”, saying he felt no resentment towards the German missionaries.

“They actually looked after us and they protected us from those aspects of colonisation here at this very place,” Mr O’Brien said.

‘Extraordinary journey’

Ms Wong said that the return of the cultural items from Germany to Australia marked a meaningful moment in the relationship between the two countries.

“More than 2,000 cultural heritage items have been returned to 15 communities across Australia,” she said.

“The Germans who took these items also acted in many ways with respect, protesting some of the oppressing conditions that our First Nations people faced at the time.

“I think today we see again a new respect in the return of these culturally significant items.”

The artefacts will be available for the public to view at the Art Gallery of SA.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the ceremony was “truly a coming-home”.

“As each of these are returned to country, with them returns the spirit of the ancestors that once used them,” she said.

“The journey these items have been on is quite extraordinary.

“You get goosebumps just looking at [them].

“Repatriation helps us to tell the full story of this country’s history. It is a small insight into 65,000 years of connection to country.”

The artefacts will soon be available for the public to view at the Art Gallery of South Australia.