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Yindjibarndi celebrate return of cultural heritage material

Representatives of the Yindjibarndi community gathered in Roebourne WA to celebrate the unconditional return of eight secular items from Andover, United Kingdom (UK).

The return is the first repatriation from a private collector under the newly extended Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) initiative led by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

The repatriated items include a shield, spear thrower, two boomerangs and four wooden spear heads. The items had been in the care of the collector and his family for over a century before being returned to Traditional Custodians.

Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Michael Woodley said the return of these artefacts signifies recognition and respect for the Yindjibarndi Nation.

“We can all feel proud of the great collective achievement in re-uniting these historical and special objects with its people and Ngurra.

“Yindjibarndi Nation acknowledges AIATSIS for managing the entire process for the artefacts to arrive safely back to the Pilbara. We also thanks the collector’s family for their support, care and safekeeping of these Yindjibarndi treasures for the past 105 years.”

This return successfully demonstrates there is a strong desire from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to have their material returned and a willingness not only from overseas collecting institutions but also private collectors and holders to support this process. 

AIATSIS CEO Mr Craig Ritchie said, “I am honoured to be able to mark and celebrate this significant event with the Yindjibarndi people. The return of cultural heritage material is enormously important to reconnect not only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but all Australians with our shared history.

“The return of these objects enables people to recognise and celebrate the enduring brilliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture.”

Despite the challenges and impact of COVID-19, AIATSIS continues to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, securing the return of cultural heritage material from overseas collecting institutions, governments and private holders.

In July 2020 the Australian Government announced a further $10 million to extend RoCH for another four years.