Repatriation of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to communities of origin helps create healing, justice and reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Communities work with the National Museum of Australia on access, safe-keeping and unconditional returns.
Traditional owners and custodians
The repatriation process is guided by strict policies that allow for the unconditional return of remains and artefacts in line with the aspirations of traditional owners and custodians.
Where custodians do not have the resources to take remains or secret and sacred objects, the Museum is able to hold them for safe-keeping on the community’s behalf.
The National Museum has been involved in repatriation since its inception in 1980 and is recognised internationally for its work with communities. The Museum is the temporary repository and repatriation point for many collections returned from overseas.
The Museum has never deliberately sought to acquire human remains or secret and sacred objects. These remains and objects are from earlier and international sources. Many were transferred when the Australian Institute of Anatomy closed in 1985.