Return of Cultural Heritage Project

Return of Cultural Heritage Project
Research theme: 
Project status: 
Current

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

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During 2020, Australia will mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage to the east coast of Australia. This anniversary also marks the start of a process of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage being removed overseas. AIATSIS believes that as we reach this anniversary every effort needs to be made to secure return of items of Indigenous cultural heritage to Australia. With funding from the Australian Government, AIATSIS is leading the Return of Cultural Heritage project to intensify the effort to return material (including but not limited to objects, photographs, manuscripts and audiovisual records) held overseas back to Country for the purpose of cultural renewal, revival, support and maintenance.

Returning material to Country for purposes of cultural revitalisation is a key aspiration of Indigenous communities. The “Return of Cultural Heritage project” will form a part of a larger narrative and support the cultural resurgence of Australia’s First Nations’ peoples. The project 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 Cultural Heritage project is a scoping pilot and will run until 30 June 2020.

The project is currently:

  • Exploring and facilitating the return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials (objects, audio visual, and images) from overseas back to Country.
  • Documenting and developing an appropriately accessible database of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections held overseas.
  • Building relationships between overseas collecting institutions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Documenting a future work program.

​The project follows the principles of Ask First, Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies and Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

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Last reviewed: 2 Mar 2020