The Australian Government has supported international repatriation for over 30 years. This has seen the return of 1,700 ancestors from across nine countries back to Australia. The Australian Government maintains its commitment to securing the return of ancestors held overseas so they can be returned to their Traditional Custodians or held in safe care in Australia until their Traditional Custodians can be identified.

We are currently working with collecting institutions in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and New Zealand to progress repatriations. We have a joint arrangement with France and are working closely with other countries to advocate for the return of ancestors. When the Traditional Custodians are known, we work closely with them as they advise on the return of their ancestors, cultural protocols and any access and controls for associated material. The Traditional Custodians make all decisions regarding the final resting place of their ancestors.

Image graphic shows that as of 1 December 2023, 1700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains (ancestors) have been repatriated from overseas over the past 30 years. The breakdown shows: 139 ancestors from the USA; 1 ancestor from Canada, 1294 ancestors from the UK, 157 ancestors from Germany, 54 ancestors from Austria, 41 ancestors from Sweden, 8 ancestors from the Czech Republic, 5 ancestors from the Netherlands and 1 ancestor from the Republic of Ireland. These numbers reflect the minimum

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

More information

  • The Australian Government has supported the return of over 1600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains (ancestors) from overseas institutions and private holders for over 30 years.
  • 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.