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Cultural heritage material to be returned to Aranda and Bardi Jawi communities from overseas

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) welcomes today’s announcement that Aranda people of Central Australia and Bardi Jawi people of the northern Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia will have 42 culturally significant objects returned from the Illinois State Museum in the United States of America.

The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians made the announcement this morning after news was received overnight that the Illinois State Museum had approved a repatriation request from AIATSIS on behalf of the Aranda and Bardi Jawi Nations.

AIATSIS CEO Mr Craig Ritchie said the decision made by Illinois State Museum today marks what he hopes is the beginning of a series of returns. 

“These objects will be returned to Country where they will be used in the maintenance and revival of cultural practices, and support intergenerational knowledge transfer. We look forward to continuing our work with Aranda, Bardi Jawi and the Illinois State Museum on this important return,” Mr Ritchie said.

“This milestone decision is significant for Australia’s First Nations’ peoples as it demonstrates that our connection to our cultural heritage is recognised, respected and valued. The Return of Cultural Heritage project has identified some 95,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects being held in more than 200 overseas collecting institutions around the world. It is important that many more of these objects start to come home.

“Communities have been extremely supportive of this project and the engagement processes undertaken by AIATSIS, and responses from collecting institutions have been similarly positive. We envisage this successful outcome will provide the evidence base and a template for an ongoing program of work.”

Representatives from Aranda and Bardi Jawi will travel to the United States of America to return their items back to Country as early as next month. AIATSIS partnered with the communities to research, identify and request the unconditional repatriation of the material, which includes secret / sacred, ceremonial and secular materials.

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Last updated: 16 August 2022