The Indigenous Repatriation Program—Museum Grants (the Program) supports the return of Australian First Nations peoples’ ancestral remains (ancestors) and secret sacred objects (objects) held in eight major Australian museums to their Traditional Custodians.

Museums funded under the Program work in partnership with identified First Nations communities to return their ancestors and objects. The Australian Government recognises the importance and cultural significance of First Nations communities being directly involved in the repatriation process.

More than 2,900 ancestors and more than 2,380 secret sacred objects have been returned to the custodianship of their communities.

Objectives for the Program are to:

  • Identify the origin of all ancestors and objects held in the collections of the eight funded museums.
  • Empower First Nations communities to be involved in the repatriation of their ancestors and objects.
  • Repatriate ancestors and objects to their Traditional Custodians.
  • Facilitate discussion with Traditional Custodians for culturally appropriate storage and access to ancestors and objects.
  • Support the engagement and/or employment of First Nations people to provide assistance, support and cultural advice to progress the repatriation of ancestors and objects to their Traditional Custodians.

Each museum funded under the Program is responsible for their respective repatriation programs.


2022-23 Museum Grant Highlights

2021–22 Museum Grant Highlights

2020–21 Museum Grant Highlights

2019–2020 Museum Grant Highlights

2018–2019 Museum Grant Highlights

Museums Repatriation Officers Meeting

In April 2023, the Department hosted a national meeting of Museum Repatriation Officers in Melbourne. The meeting provided an opportunity for repatriation officers from the eight museums funded under the Program to workshop repatriation issues affecting First Nations people. Over the two days, participants presented on a range of topics including enhancing collaborative projects, partnerships and returning ancestors to Country and community consultations. There was also discussion on establishing best practice for the handling and care of ancestors and objects; ensuring cultural safety of staff involved in repatriation; and discussing the ethics and practicalities of provenance research. The key outcomes of the meeting were information sharing, improving collaboration and fostering best practice to better support First Nations communities to repatriate their ancestors and objects.

2022–23 funded museums

For more information on the Program, email

For more information about the respective museum repatriation programs and the return of ancestors and objects in their safekeeping, please contact the museums directly.

  • The Australian Government supports the repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains (ancestors) and secret sacred objects (objects) which contributes to healing and reconciliation.
  • The Australian Government seeks the voluntary and unconditional return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains (ancestors) held in overseas collecting institutions and with private holders.