Michael Pickering is the Manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, National Museum of Australia. More about Michael Pickering
Phil Gordon has worked at the Australian Museum since 1980. He advises Aboriginal communities on a range of museum-related issues. More about Phil Gordon
The major federal, state and territory museums have become increasingly active in the repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains and secret/sacred objects over the past 20 years. Indeed the Australian museum industry is now internationally recognised as a world leader in this area. What characterises the Australia repatriation experience is a reliance on a philosophy of repatriation, typically in the absence of compelling legislation.
Australian museums return remains and secret/sacred objects because intellectual debate and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has convinced the industry that this is the ethical course of action. This is in stark contrast to other countries, for example, the United States of America, where legislative controls impose repatriation on an industry that is clearly not always convinced of the merits of the practice.
However, despite Australia’s pre-eminence, this reputation has not come about without dispute. Only 20 years ago there was majority opposition by heritage professionals, many of whom worked in, or were associated with Australian museums. They believed that repatriation was the wrong thing to do. Any repatriation was considered to be a surrender to Indigenous political activism. Nonetheless, increasing requests – indeed demands – by Indigenous people for the return of remains and secret/sacred objects compelled the museum industry to explain why it rejected, or was at least cautious of, the principle. In so doing the topic of repatriation was openly debated for the first time. This in turn led to a change in direction. Slowly, repatriation events occurred, not the least being the return of the remains of Mungo Woman in 1989 by Alan Thorne of the Australian National University. The Mungo statement of 1989 was a highly symbolic event.
The Australian Museum in Sydney took the lead in industry acceptance of repatriation, largely empowered by the support and direct input of its director.  As a result the principle was embraced by Museums Australia.  In recent years the principle of repatriation has been endorsed by federal, state, and territory ministers and governments.  This, in turn, has led to provision of improved funding support for repatriation.
While a philosophy of repatriation has been established, the practice of repatriation is still developing. Each repatriation case and event is still unique in its characteristics. Each museum’s experiences continue to inform their future practice – indeed the practice of the industry. As a result of improved resourcing leading to greater activity, issues that previously emerged rarely are now becoming regular occurrences, with trends and patterns subsequently emerging.
Repatriation as a business as usual practice of museums is still new. Each museum works under its own philosophical and policy guidelines, influenced also by external political and legislative responsibilities that are imposed upon it by the nation, state, or territory to which it belongs.
Over the last 30 to 40 years many changes have occurred in Australia in the relationships between Indigenous peoples and the broader community. Both political and social rights have been given to or won by Indigenous peoples across a broad range of areas, from land rights through to the acknowledgement that Aboriginal people were and are the original owners of this land via the 1992 Mabo judgment by the Australian High Court. 
As museums don’t stand alone from these developments in the broader community, they have had to respond to these changes and deeply question their world views and the ways they operate. These are positive outcomes that have enabled museums to grow and maintain relevance, not only with Indigenous peoples, but also to the broader Australian community.
The National Museum of Australia (NMA) has a divergent history compared with most other major Australian museums active in repatriation. While a ‘National Museum’ was proposed for decades, it only came into existence officially in 1980 with the passing of the National Museum of Australia Act. This means the National Museum of Australia does not have a nineteenth-century legacy of a history of deliberate collection of human remains and secret/sacred objects that characterises other museums. The ancestral remains and secret/sacred objects in its care are derived from other collections transferred, or temporarily housed under contract. This is an advantage in that the Museum does not have to work as hard to overcome a negative perception of the Museum amongst its Indigenous clients. The Museum’s own holdings of human remains and secret/sacred objects derive primarily from the old Australian Institute of Anatomy collections, transferred to the Museum in 1985. The Museum has also been the repository and repatriation point for collections of ancestral remains from overseas.
Interestingly, despite the status of the National Museum of Australia as a federal institution, it has fewer legislated powers and less authority or responsibility for repatriation than the major state and territory museums, other than a minor role as a storage facility for unprovenanced remains referred through the Minister for the Department of Environment and Water Resources under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984. State and territory museums, on the other hand, typically have roles, responsibilities, and a commensurate authority assigned to them by relevant state and territory heritage management legislation. When the Museum engages with Indigenous communities in the states and territories it is obliged to work in accordance with the legislation and protocols prevailing within the respective jurisdictions. This conflicting federal/state authority is neither useful nor required; it does however serve as a cautionary tale to external federal agencies, also engaged in repatriation, that place pre-eminence on the term ‘national’ in their dealings with states and territories.
The National Museum has been returning remains and secret/sacred objects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people upon request since its inception in 1980. In 2001, the Museum established a Repatriation Program Unit to manage the return of Indigenous remains and secret/sacred objects.
The National Museum’s repatriation activities are guided by its policies on ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Remains’ (2005), and on ‘Secret/Sacred and Private Material’ (2006).  The most significant characteristics of these policies are that they allow for the immediate and unconditional return of remains and secret/sacred objects to traditional owners and custodians, and that any other external access to the remains collection is permitted only with the approval of the relevant community.
Unlike many Australian state and territory museums, the Museum does not have an Indigenous committee to oversee repatriation, preferring to deal directly with the identified descendants and custodians of material to be returned.
The National Museum’s repatriation process is proactive. The work begins with the identification of provenanced remains. The provenance is then located on appropriate maps. This allows consultation with relevant state and territory heritage authorities that assists in the identification of formally recognised representative organisations and/or individuals. It is expected that the Museum’s activities will not conflict with the laws and protocols of the state or territory jurisdictions in which the repatriation activities occur. This responsibility encourages engagement with state and territory government Indigenous heritage management departments, and Indigenous representative bodies such as museums, land councils, native title representative bodies, and legal aid services and so on. Such bodies, established by legislation and/or supported by state, territory, or federal funding, have a responsibility to represent custodians, traditional owners, and native title applicants and/or holders. The identification of such individuals and groups based on cultural, anthropological, as well as legislative criteria is the day-to-day business of such representative bodies. Access to this information – achieved through their endorsement of a repatriation claimant, rather than by disclosure of personal and private particulars – assists the Museum in fast tracking the repatriation process to the benefit of custodians.
At the same time, such engagement provides some protection for the National Museum when it is required to describe who it has dealt with, and to explain the basis for accepting that individual or group as being the appropriate custodians for repatriated items. This occurs, for example, through the regular processes of government audit, discovery of documents for legal process (native title), and enquiries by other Indigenous representatives, Senate inquiries and so on.
Put simply, the National Museum uses the local knowledge and experience that state and territory representatives and heritage organisations provide in order to assist with identification of prospective custodians or their representatives. The effectiveness of this method is demonstrated by the lack of formal complaint by other majority groups following a repatriation event.
Once a prospective custodian, custodial group, or representative body has been identified, they are advised in writing of the nature of the remains available for return. Correspondence often includes a statement of ‘Advice to Applicants’ that details how to apply for the return of remains. This asks prospective custodians for any information that may assist in supporting their application. However, the aim is not to make custodians sit an exam for the return of remains that the National Museum considers are their rightful heritage. Provision of such information is not mandatory, and in the majority of cases the Museum itself accepts the potential claimant group’s rights of ownership based on information gained in the process of identifying them and, in particular, through the endorsement of state and territory museums, heritage offices and representative bodies. What the establishment of basic criteria does do, however, is discourage frivolous or vexatious claims by people who may not be acknowledged or authorised by the majority of the community to make a claim for repatriation, a critical issue when it is remembered that any repatriation is an empowering event. When a government instrumentality returns materials to a group it is effectively supporting the primacy of that group as the local representative organisation.
An officer of the Museum’s repatriation unit then consults further with the applicants and other parties with potential interests. The return of the remains or objects, or alternative management, proceeds in accordance with instructions from the custodians. Except for signing a receipt, the return of remains or objects is currently unconditional. Custodians may do with the material as they see fit.
Where groups do not have the resources to take receipt of items, the Museum sometimes offers to store them temporarily on their behalf. The remains or objects are the property of the community/custodians and the Museum claims no authority over them beyond keeping them safe and secure. This service has been facilitated by the Museum’s larger than usual facility to house ancestral remains.
The National Museum of Australia’s Repatriation Unit is a service provider, not a research unit. It is charged with the prompt repatriation of remains to custodians. Thus, the Museum does not do ‘pure’ research on remains or secret/sacred objects. In-house investigations are carried out when necessary in order to facilitate provenancing, reunification of separated elements, and repatriation of remains and objects. However, such inquiry is usually focused in its aims and restricted in its circulation. Access to such reports requires the approval of the community concerned.
In order to maintain the trust and confidence of Indigenous communities, it is important to demonstrate that the unit has no vested personal research interests that might delay or otherwise compromise the prompt return of material or the right of the relevant custodial group to control, and participate in associated research. Thus, where a community requests further research beyond that required for facilitating return, the Unit attempts to put them in touch with suitable external professionals. Such an attitude is not unique to the National Museum of Australia. Research on Indigenous remains is tightly controlled by industry, institutional, and professional policies and protocols requiring community approval. The outcome is that today no Australian museum will allow access to its holdings of Indigenous remains or secret/sacred objects without the approval of the socially associated community.
Over the seven years of the National Museum of Australia Repatriation Unit's operations, the remains of over 750 individuals and over 400 secret/sacred objects have been returned to Aboriginal communities across Australia.
One of the pivotal programs that has evolved out of the growing relationship between the Australian Museum (AM) and Indigenous peoples has been in the area of repatriation of significant material as well as ancestral remains to communities of origin. The Australian Museum has been repatriating objects since the 1970s. Repatriation is defined as returning an original object or actual remains to the original owners.
The philosophy of the Australian Museum is that cultural property has ongoing significance, both to the people who created it and to their descendants. Thus the act of repatriation reflects respect for living cultures and a way of supporting Indigenous people in the control of their own cultural outcomes. As a result of returning artefacts and human skeletal remains to Indigenous Australian communities, the Australian Museum has become an agent of social change by promoting reconciliation through its program of repatriation.
It has now been over 30 years since the Australian Museum first repatriated Aboriginal skeletal remains and a range of objects to various national museums in the Pacific. These events were brought about due to emerging international Indigenous rights, including land rights; the policies of self-determination within the broader Indigenous communities; and the need for museums to address the ongoing changes in the relationships between Indigenous people and the broader society.
This new dialogue has required a dramatic re-evaluation by major museums and the development of a dialogue between museums and other cultural bodies and Indigenous peoples. The Australian Museum is no exception. However, this is still a work in progress. Because the relationship is growing and evolving, the various frameworks of interaction are constantly changing. As Des Griffin, former Director of the Australian Museum, has argued, museums can no longer function on the basis that they alone may determine what use is made of cultural material or what access is allowed to Indigenous people. The continuing responsibility of museums to respond to the concerns of Indigenous people is a moral imperative. 
For both the Australian Museum and Indigenous communities the successful initiation of proactive repatriation policies, protocols and practices is not the end of the issue. In many cases it is just the beginning. Marking the initiation and development of relationships can take many forms. For instance, the Museum has been asked to assist in the return of material from private collectors or other institutions to the appropriate Aboriginal custodians or communities. In cases where community facilities are not available, the Museum has been asked to be a custodian on behalf of the communities. The Museum receives this material from Aboriginal custodians or communities on the basis that it is considered a safekeeping place, a place that can be trusted.
One of the major factors in the developing relationship is the involvement of Indigenous people in the decision-making process. The Australian Museum has, over a number of years, developed a framework for consultations undertaken to gain their opinion and advice about the current and future protection and management of items of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture in the Museum's care.
The cornerstone principles of this framework are:
The act of consultation in itself can come in many forms, reflecting the requirements of a great variety of Aboriginal community structures that exist. Responses to this continuing dialogue are constantly changing, and include continual evaluation of the various programs offered to Indigenous people, which are then modified and developed to meet their changing needs.
The future will hold new challenges for all museums in the area of repatriation. One of these will be in the way that museums use Indigenous knowledge in all its many forms. Indigenous intellectual property, how it is used, who owns it, and how traditional owners are going to access and control this material, are significant questions.
Access to collections in a digital form can empower community engagement with collections when it is combined with social media to explore issues of identity. Social media can be a powerful medium through which communities determine access to digital collections.
One of the more obvious responses by Indigenous people to control of not only their material culture but the associated stories has been through the setting up of their own museums or keeping places. The Australian Museum views the establishment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander museums, cultural centres, and keeping places (community museums) as important cultural institutions where local Indigenous people can house cultural material, host exhibitions, conduct research and become centres of cultural revitalisation. In this way the Australian Museum recognises the importance of Indigenous people maintaining and preserving their culture. Cultural centres range from large multifunctional tourist facilities, through to small facilities with little more than a few display cases. However, what they all represent is the manifestation of legitimate responses by Indigenous peoples to the preservation of their own culture, using their own voice.
The Australian Museum has developed the Aboriginal Museums Outreach Program to assist Indigenous people in the achievement of their cultural objectives. This program provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with access to professional museum training and advice in the planning and management of their own cultural centres and keeping places. The Australian Museum has a unique resource of talented professionals who are able to provide a range of community-focused training from intensive through to short familiarisation visits. Some of the areas in which the Australian Museum offers training to Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are archive and collection management, materials conservation techniques, and public program development.
Limited resources restrict the program in its capacity to offer this service adequately to all Aboriginal communities within New South Wales. The use of new technologies, especially in the initial stages of identifying needs and objectives, partly addresses this problem, without replacing the preferred face-to-face discussions that had continuously proved so successful.
The Australian Museums’ ‘Keeping Culture’ project allows the user to gain first-hand experiences through four case studies of different styles of Aboriginal cultural centres and keeping places. The user is able to explore the experiences of these communities through audiovisual interviews and backgrounds to each of the centre’s objectives and histories. 
The Museum’s Aboriginal Heritage Unit (AHU) worked closely in the production of ‘Keeping Culture’ with people from four well-established cultural centres and keeping places. These representatives shared their own experiences of setting up and running a centre. This provided insights not only into some of the challenges and opportunities but also the important role these places play in preserving and maintaining culture within Aboriginal communities.
Throughout the development of the CDROM, an extensive consultation and review process was undertaken to obtain continual feedback on the project. A prototype of the CDROM was tested at a meeting of NSW Aboriginal cultural centre and keeping place workers, with feedback given on issues such as design, content, and ease of use.
The wide variety of collaborative projects undertaken by the AHU have resulted in a range of positive outcomes over a number of years. These have come about because museums have been responsive to the changing and evolving wishes of their Indigenous stakeholders, leading museums to engage them as equal partners in a truly win-win situation.
What have the National Museum of Australia and the Australian Museum learned over the past seven years of intensive repatriation? One generic outcome, reflected in the experiences of all Australian state and territory museums with which the National Museum and the Australian Museum have engaged, is that experiences, issues, problems and considerations that might once have only arisen rarely, now arise regularly. Similarly, some of the problems that museums may have thought unique to their situation are now seen to be common to all participating institutions. It should however, be noted that all museum repatriation practitioners are not necessarily in agreement, either over the priority of the issues or the means to their resolution. However, all are in agreement that they are topics requiring continued open debate and discussion. Some significant issues have emerged in recent years.
Firstly, the term ‘repatriation’ needs better definition if it is not to be trivialised. The term ‘repatriation’ means the return of the original. Several agencies engaging with repatriation assert that return of copies of documentation, films or photographs constitutes repatriation. While this certainly constitutes restitution of cultural knowledge, it cannot be defined as repatriation. By analogy, the return of casts or photographs of remains or sacred objects, while retaining the originals, could in no way constitute repatriation.
Secondly, the success of museum repatriation programs, and their exposure in the media, seem to have invited greater interference from non-museum agencies seeking to capitalise on the ‘good news’ aspect of repatriation. As a result museums are encountering more interference in their activities, with increased, and more onerous, reporting requirements. Other non-museum agencies are also attempting to run independent repatriation projects that bypass state and territory museum procedures and legislative processes. As a result of inconsistent methodologies, Indigenous communities are receiving contradictory information; there is inconsistency in who or what organisations are being approached; and the subsequent potential for community conflict over repatriation is exacerbated. Australian museums take care to ensure that state and territory protocols and policies are observed — other agencies are not so cautious. Hearsay evidence suggests that instructions have been given to avoid some state and territory agencies with legislated authority for the care of secret/sacred objects, heritage, and ancestral remains. This interference may lead to museums withdrawing from participation with other agencies.
In addition, little consideration seems to have been given by funding agencies to supporting the post-return management by custodians of remains and secret/sacred objects. Communities need the resources to receive, house and/or finally inter repatriated material. The repatriation process is slowed considerably when communities simply cannot receive items or remains due to a lack of resources. Museums are funded to provide limited support for the actual receipt of the remains or objects, but the longer-term management falls upon the shoulder of the recipient communities, who rarely have the infrastructure or resources to care for the returns in a way they feel is culturally appropriate. In effect only half of the process is being funded.
A number of people are involved in the repatriation process. Each brings to the process, and to their methods of consultation, latent personal and professional biases. It is not surprising that the results of consultations by some professionals often reflect the pre-expressed opinions of the professionals themselves. Over time stronger methodologies and consultative models are being developed, and shared, that will increase the impartiality of consultations.
One particularly interesting concern for museums is the potential for conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous policies and philosophies of rights in heritage. Australian museums, amongst other heritage institutions, generally recognise that the rights in cultural heritage exist independently of a detailed knowledge of that cultural heritage. Australian museums recognise that other cultures have a right to be identified as moral, if not yet legal, owners of items of their culture. However, this philosophy may at times be at odds with Indigenous custom. For example, under western heritage philosophies, remains and/or sacred objects could be returned to groups or persons of the correct corporate identity – as with a duly authorised representative of a language group – but of an inappropriate social grouping, sex, or age. This person might have legitimate authority and a commensurate claim to remains or objects under a western legally defined heritage authority code, but a less important status under a customary authority code. It would be easy to artificially empower someone who has a legitimate right to an object under a western heritage policy structure, but less of a right under a customary structure.
Many remains and secret/sacred objects were acquired without the free and informed consent of the original custodians, and in violation of tradition or custom – they were stolen, or traded without authority. However, it must be recognised that some objects, both secret/sacred objects and human remains, were acquired legitimately in accordance with the cultural protocols of both giver and receiver, particularly those acquired over the past 60 years. Records and personal accounts clearly show that some researchers, both male and female, were occasionally given remains and secret/sacred objects with the free and informed consent of the giver and not in violation of tradition.
And finally, as a result of increased community engagement in the activities of museums over the past 20 years, relationships based on mutual respect and trust have increased. Many communities now trust some museums to care for remains and secret/sacred objects on their behalf until such time as resources for their receipt become available. Australian museums are increasingly offering to store remains on behalf of discrete communities or, in the case of unprovenanced remains and objects, on behalf of the Indigenous people of their jurisdictions. The future will thus see increased transfers of collections to state and territory repositories authorised by state and territory Indigenous spokespeople. Unfortunately it is clear that for some of these institutions, in particular in the Northern Territory, their existing facilities are inadequate to house the number of remains and objects they will be requested to hold. Nonetheless, while finance is being provided on a per capita (object) basis for museums to return remains to the Northern Territory, no support is available for the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery or similar authorised heritage agency to improve and maintain its storage facilities. Similar smaller museums are in the same situation.
The underlying theme for the future is the need for improved coordination and allocation of resources based on assessment of future outcomes, not just on short term assessments of numbers of remains or objects returned.
Nonetheless, along with successful repatriations, the identification of problems is also a successful outcome. It is evidence of the debate and retrospective analysis that currently characterises participating museums in Australia. We look to continuing improvements in philosophy, process, and recognition of Indigenous rights in their heritage.
Australian Museum Audience Research Centre, Aboriginal Heritage Unit 2003 Workshop Evaluation, unpublished report, Australian Museum, Sydney, 2003.
R Edwards and J Stewart (eds), Preserving Indigenous Cultures: a new role for museums, AGPS, Canberra, 1980.
P Gordon, ‘Museums, Indigenous Peoples and the 21st Century; or is there a place for museums in this brave new world?’ in Community Museums in Asia: report on a training workshop, pp. 34–41, the Japan Foundation Asia Centre, Tokyo, 1998.
L Kelly, P Gordon and T Sullivan, Evaluation of Previous Possessions, New Obligations: policies for museums and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, unpublished Green Paper prepared for Museums Australia National Office, November, 2000.
L Kelly, A Bartlett and P Gordon, Indigenous Youth and Museums, Australian Museum, Sydney, 2002.
L Kelly and P Gordon, ‘Developing a Community of Practice: museums and reconciliation in Australia’, in R Sandell (ed.), Museums, Society, Inequality, Routledge, London, 2002, pp. 153–174.
National Museum of Australia, Policy on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Remains, 2005 <www.nma.gov.au/about_us/nma_corporate_documents/policies/> Accessed 13 June 2006.
R Sandell, ‘Museums as Agents of Social Inclusion’, Museum Management and Curatorship, Vol. 17, No. 4, 1998, pp. 401–418.
R Sandell (ed.), Museums, Society, Inequality, Routledge, London, 2002.
L Silverman and M O'Neill, ‘Change and Complexity in the 21st-Century Museum’, Museum News, November/December 2004, pp. 37–42.
J Specht and C MacLulich, ‘Changes and Challenges: the Australian Museum and Indigenous communities’, in P McManus (ed.), Archaeological Displays and the Public: museology and interpretation, Institute of Archaeology, London, 1996, pp. 27–49.
T Sullivan, L Kelly and P Gordon, ‘Museums and Indigenous People in Australia: a review of Previous Possessions, New Obligations’, Curator: The Museums Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2003, pp. 208–227.
1Thorne Alan, The Mungo Statement: towards a reconciliation, Pamphlet 1991;
Robert Edwards, Andrew Reeves and Des Griffin, in Donald F McMichael (ed.), Australian museums – collecting and presenting Australia, Proceedings of the Council of Australian Museum Associations Conference, Canberra, 1990, Melbourne, CAMA, 1991; Des Griffin, ‘Previous Possessions, New Obligations: a commitment by Australian museums’, Curator, The Museums Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, 1996, 45–62; Museums Australia, Continuous Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities: principles and guidelines for Australian museums working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, Museums Australia Inc. Canberra, ACT, 2005. <http://www.museumsaustralia.org.au/dbdoc/ccor_final_feb_05.pdf > Accessed 9 June 2006.
2 Museums Australia, Previous Possessions, New Obligations: a plain English summary of policies for museums in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Museums Australia Inc, Canberra, 1993; Museums Australia, Continuous Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities.
3 See for example Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, ‘Press release, ‘Joint Statement with Tony Blair on Aboriginal remains’ <http://www.pm.gov.au/news/media_releases/2000/Aboriginal_4-7.htm> accessed 9 June 2006; and Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, ‘Press release, ‘Indigenous remains UK report November 2003’ <http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/10052/20031121-0000/www.pm.gov.au/news/media_releases/media_Release557.html> accessed 24 July 2008; Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone 30 July 2004, Press release, ‘Australian Government Welcomes Latest Milestone for the Repatriation of Indigenous Human Remains from the United Kingdom; Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs’, Mal Brough, 31 January 2007; Press release http://www.eniar.org/news/repat46.html accessed 24 July 2008; Minister for the Arts and Sport Senator George Brandis, ‘Return of Indigenous Cultural Property programme to continue 8 May 2007’, <http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/brandis/media/media_releases/2007/
4 Issues surrounding the issues of Native Title and other associated subjects can be found at the National Native Title Tribunal website <www.nntt.gov.au>.
5 National Museum of Australia, Policy on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Remains <http://www.nma.gov.au/about_us/nma_corporate_documents/policies/> Accessed 13 June 2006.
Michael Pickering is the Manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, National Museum of Australia.
Phil Gordon has worked at the Australian Museum since 1980. He advises Aboriginal communities on a range of museum-related issues.
Cite as: Michael Pickering and Phil Gordon, 2011, 'Repatriation: the end of the beginning', in Des Griffin and Leon Paroissien (eds), Understanding Museums: Australian Museums and Museology, National Museum of Australia, published online at nma.gov.au/research/understanding-museums/MPickering_PGordon_2011.html ISBN 978-1-876944-92-6