Malthouse Theatre RISING The Return photo by Shortcut CreativeInspired by Yorta Yorta man Jason Tamiru’s experiences as a repatriation worker, Torres Strait Islander playwright John Harvey recounts a dark history of Australia in The Return, in a world premiere season at the Malthouse Theatre from 13 May 2022.

Locked away in museums, on display at universities and hoarded in private collections are the bodily remains of First Peoples men, women, and children. Pillaged by grave robbers and sold on by unscrupulous dealers, these people taken from their place of rest have been sold and traded for study and display across the globe.

Harvey (Heart is a Wasteland) weaves three intersecting narratives – a repatriation officer, a museum curator and a bone collector – in an epic tale spanning 250 years.

In his Malthouse directorial debut, Tamiru joins forces with Malthouse Theatre Artistic Director Matthew Lutton and a First Nations cast from across Australia including Jimi Bani, Ghenoa Gela, Damion Hunter, Angelica Lockyer, Guy Simon and Laila Thaker.

The Return brings to light the macabre true histories, false justifications and the discredited and harmful scientific theory of eugenics used to keep First Peoples remains from reaching their rightful resting places.

With many still locked away, now is the time to bring them back to Country for peace and healing.

“The inhuman practice of removing our People from Country for research and curiosity has brought much trauma and pain to my People and Country,” said Co-Director Jason Tamiru.

“Bringing our People back home to Country helps to heal the planet and allows our ancestors to reset their journey to the spirit world. Yurratha, Woka, Biyala, Wala (Sky, Land, Tree, Water, Dreaming).”

Co-Directors: Jason Tamiru, Matthew Lutton | Featuring: Jimi Bani, Ghenoa Gela, Damion Hunter, Angelica Lockyer, Guy Simon, Laila Thaker | Cultural Custodian: Jason Tamiru | Dramaturg: Mark Pritchard | Lighting Designer: Paul Jackson | Set Designer: Zoë Atkinson | Composer & Sound Designer: Jethro Woodward | Costume Designer: Zoë Rouse | Design Consultant (set): Chloe Ogilvie | Stage Manager: Lyndie Li Wan Po | Assistant Stage Manager: Cointha Walkeden | Company Manager: Laura Hale | Writer: John Harvey

Merlyn Theatre – The Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 18 May – 4 June 2022 (previews: 13 – 17 May)

For more information, visit: for details – a Malthouse Theatre and RISING co-commission.

Image: The Return – photo by Shortcut Creative