Skip to content
  • 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission
  • Shop

The glossary provides explanations of key terms used in the text.

Ancestral Remains

There are many community-preferred terms for the Ancestral Remains of deceased people. Alternatives that are frequently encountered include:

  • Ancestral Remains
  • Old people
  • Ancestors
  • Human remains
  • Remains.

Cultural Centre

A ‘Cultural Centre’ is typically a multi-function facility. Cultural Centres often house administrative offices that provide a variety of services to local Indigenous community members. They may also include small displays or museums. Cultural centres may include Keeping Places or Resting Places. Cultural Centres are likely to be places of high activity and visitation by all members of the community plus other visitors. Because of the high levels of public access Cultural Centres may not always be seen as suitable places to hold Ancestral Remains for any considerable period of time.

Digital repatriation/restitution

The term ‘digital repatriation’ is increasingly in use, although ‘digital restitution’ is a more apt description of this type of activity. It refers to the providing of copies of documentation and/or images to communities of origin. It does not include the original materials. The handbook argues that use of the term repatriation only applies to the return of ownership of the original item, such as Ancestral Remains.

Final Resting Place

A ‘Final Resting Place’ is the final site where Ancestral Remains are placed. A resting place is defined by the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander custodians. A resting place may be a burial site, a grave, tree, cave, sacred house, a building, or any other site where Ancestral Remains are finally placed by the custodial Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community. The Final Resting Place can also be a Keeping Place.

The typical path of repatriation would see Ancestral Remains go from a Repository/Store (for example, non-Indigenous controlled museum), to a Keeping Place (secure community-managed facility), to a Final Resting Place (the place where the community finally puts Ancestral Remains). However, engagements with responsible communities have now improved to the point where Ancestral Remains may be returned directly to the community and the Final Resting Place.

Keeping Place

A ‘Keeping Place’ is a facility, such as a building or secure store, where Ancestral Remains and significant objects are kept. A Keeping Place should be under Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community control. A collecting institution should not identify as a Keeping Place unless management of that place is under community control. A Keeping Place can also be a Final Resting Place.


The terms ‘provenance’ and ‘provenanced’ can refer to both the original location from where Ancestral Remains were taken, and the history of what has happened to the remains after they were collected. Provenance includes:

  • The place from where the remains were removed. This is the most common use of the term ‘provenanced’. Ancestral Remains that can be identified as belonging to a specific place and/or community are referred to as ‘provenanced’.
  • The identity of the individuals whose remains they are and what happened to them. Many individuals had their remains taken away before burial in a Resting Place. The removal of their remains and what happened to them are part of their ‘provenance’.
  • The record of what happened to the remains after they were taken. This includes their transfer between collectors, donors, museums and other collecting agencies.

Remains that cannot be linked to a place or community are known as ‘unprovenanced’.


The term ‘repatriation’ refers to the return of physical Ancestral Remains. It also applies to the return of the authority for all decisions regarding the future disposition of the Ancestral Remains to the custodians entitled to care for them by tradition and/or customary law and/or Western law.


A ‘repository’ or ‘store’ is a place where Ancestral Remains and significant objects are held, but which is not under Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community control. These are typically government departments and collecting institutions. A museum, for example, is a repository or store.

Return to Top