The Indigenous Repatriation Program—Museum Grants (the Program) facilitates the return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors and secret sacred objects held in eight major Australian museums to their communities of origin.

While the Museum Grants program supports the repatriation process, it is the museums who are ultimately responsible for managing the return of ancestors and secret sacred objects in their safekeeping to their communities.

Museums funded under the Program work in partnership with identified communities to return their ancestors and secret sacred objects. The Australian Government recognises the importance and cultural significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities being directly involved in the process of repatriation.

More than 2,850 ancestors and 2,330 secret sacred objects have been returned to the custodianship of their communities.

Objectives for the Program are to:

  • Identify the origin of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains and secret sacred objects held in the collections of the eight funded museums.
  • Empower Indigenous communities to be involved in the repatriation of their ancestral remains and secret sacred objects.
  • Repatriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to their community of origin.
  • Facilitate discussion with custodians for culturally appropriate storage and access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains and secret sacred objects.
  • Support the engagement and/or employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to provide assistance, support and cultural advice to progress the repatriation of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to communities of origin.

As Indigenous Repatriation Program funding helps support existing museum programs, enquiries relevant to the work of a specific museum should be directed to the relevant museum.

2020–21 Museum Grant Highlights

2019–2020 Museum Grant Highlights

2018–19 Museum Grant Highlights

Museums Repatriation Officers Meeting

As a result of COVID-19 and associated lock-downs, the last meeting was held in May 2019. The Department is proposing to hold the next meeting in May 2022.

2021–22 funded museums

For more information, email repatriation@arts.gov.au.

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