The Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) project was established in 2018 with two-years of funding from the Australian Government.
Through the RoCH project, 199 overseas collecting institutions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage collections were identified. Of those, 124 institutions shared information regarding their collections and 74 expressed an eagerness to establish a relationship with AIATSIS and/or Indigenous communities in Australia. Significantly, 44 expressed a willingness to consider a repatriation request. During this short period RoCH was able to facilitate 86 returns to five language groups.
In July 2020, the Australian Government announced the introduction of the RoCH program with funding until June 2024. The research and community work continues and since then RoCH research has identified 302 overseas collecting institutions holding 113,000+ Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage items.
By August 2023 AIATSIS has facilitated 18 returns of 1,976 cultural heritage items to Australia of which 154 were returned to Country.
RoCH program timeline
Collaboration and negotiations.
Receiving first catalogues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander holdings.
Arrernte return, 11 objects, Alice Springs, NT.
Bardi Jawi return, 31 objects, Cape Leveque, WA
Gangalidda and Garawa return, 12 objects, Moungibi, QLD
Nyamal return, 6 objects, Marapikurrinya, WA
Planning and initiation of project.
Research and identification of overseas holdings.
Contacting overseas institutions.
The RoCH program only returns Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander material from overseas institutions and private collectors. We do not have the mandate for domestic returns.
RoCH does not return ancestral remains. They are returned under the Indigenous Repatriation Program.