A landmark event will occur this week when Museums Victoria will return twenty-six Arrernte sacred objects to central Australia through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Repatriation Program. At the request of Arrernte Elders, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) will house the objects at the Strehlow Research Centre at the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs. In 2013 Arrernte male Elders visited Museums Victoria to view collection items originating from Central Australia.
Through an understanding of ceremonial law, the senior men selected sacred objects to be repatriated or returned to the community. The sacred objects will arrive in Alice Springs on Friday, 21st July, where they will be taken to the Strehlow Research Centre’s purpose built facility to be stored securely and accessed by senior Arrernte men. MAGNT Artwe-kenhe (men’s) Research Officer, Shaun Angeles, who has worked on the repatriation project and accompanied the Arrernte Elders to Museums Victoria said, “These sacred objects left this Country over 100 years ago, so this is a really significant event. We are all very proud to see these important objects come home. At this time we also remember our forefathers who revered and cared for these objects for so long.” Angeles went on to say, “We, as Arrernte men would like to thank the Australian Government, the Indigenous Repatriation Program and Museums Victoria for this opportunity.” Museums Victoria’s Senior Curator of Anthropology, Dr Philip Batty, said that Museums Victoria recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural property and through the Indigenous Repatriation Program Is committed to returning cultural objects to Indigenous communities around the country. “The repatriation of
Museums Victoria’s Senior Curator of Anthropology, Dr Philip Batty, said that Museums Victoria recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural property and through the Indigenous Repatriation Program Is committed to returning cultural objects to Indigenous communities around the country. “The repatriation of Indigenous cultural property is both a rewarding and complex process that can take years to finalise”, Dr Batty said, “However, the most important aspect of this process is the close ties that invariably develop between the museum and the source communities.”
MAGNT is one of eight national museums to receive funding from the Australian Government to assist with the return of Aboriginal secret sacred objects and ancestral remains back to their communities. MAGNT performs an invaluable role in the required research that could potentially see thousands of similarly significant objects held in the collections of other major museums around the country repatriated. This can only be realised through MAGNT’s enduring relationships with Aboriginal communities and Elders throughout Central Australia.