Media release

Media release, The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians

The Morrison Government is investing almost $10 million to extend the Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) Initiative, led by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), to 2024.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said the initiative facilitates and secures the return of significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage material held overseas and continues to build a database of cultural heritage material held in overseas institutions.

“The Morrison Government recognises that the repatriation of cultural heritage material to its community of origin is important to the processes of healing, truth-telling and reconciliation,” Minister Wyatt said.

“The Return of Cultural Heritage pilot project successfully demonstrated there is a strong desire from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to have their material returned and a willingness from overseas collecting institutions to support this.

“This investment allows for an expansion of the ground-breaking work conducted by AIATSIS, which has already engaged 194 international collecting institutions holding over 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage items.

“The highly successful pilot facilitated and secured the unconditional return of 42 objects from the United States of America and 43 objects from the United Kingdom to their traditional owners – the Aranda, Bardi Jawi, Gangalidda and Garawa, Nyamal and Yawuru peoples.”

Chief Executive Officer of AIATSIS, Craig Ritchie, said AIATSIS is honoured to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to facilitate the return of their heritage from overseas collections.
“Our cultures are rich and diverse and bringing cultural heritage material home is a key aspiration of Indigenous communities and helps create a deeper understanding our national story,” Mr Ritchie said.

More information on the project is available at https://aiatsis.gov.au/research/research-themes/culture-and-heritage/return-cultural-heritage-project