Return of Cultural Heritage

Gangalida Garawa dancers
Research theme: 
Project status: 
Current

Image: The Gangalidda Dancers perform a ceremony at a handover event in Moungibi (Burketown).

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For 250 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage has been removed overseas and placed in museums, universities, and private collections.

With funding from the Australian Government, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is leading the Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) initiative to return Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage material held overseas to Australia.

The initiative will return Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials including objects, photographs, audio-visual records, artwork and archival items. Returning ancestral remains is not within the scope of the initiative.*

The RoCH initiative is scheduled to run for four years, commencing July 2020.

The RoCH initiative will:

1. Facilitate and secure the return of Indigenous cultural heritage materials from overseas to Australia.

2. Enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to understand where their cultural heritage material is held overseas.

3. Influence the development of changes to institutional repatriation practices, policy and guidelines.

4. Foster relationships between overseas collecting institutions and Indigenous communities.

This important work supports the cultural resurgence of Australia’s First Nations’ peoples and will strengthen the signal both to the nation and globally that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is respected, celebrated and valued.

*The return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains from overseas collections is carried out by the Indigenous Repatriation Program (IRP) administered by the Office for the Arts. The Australian Government has supported the return of ancestral remains for over 30 years. Full details of their program are available via their website.

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Contact

For further information regarding the initative, please contact: roch@aiatsis.gov.au 

Last reviewed: 23 Jul 2020