OEH Conservation Officer John Duggan with stone knapping tools at Roadshow BH DD

Repatriation of Aboriginal Cultural Material and Ancestors

Through repatriation, we support the return of Aboriginal ancestors and objects to their rightful owners and resting places.

For over 230 years Aboriginal ancestral remains and objects have been removed from their communities. As a result, Aboriginal ancestors and objects are now held in collections across Australia and in other countries worldwide.

We help to bring about the return of Aboriginal ancestors and objects to their rightful owners by working with:

  • Aboriginal communities
  • the Australian Government
  • Australian museums
  • state, territory and local governments
  • collecting institutions
  • private collectors.

The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (ACHAC) advises the department about Aboriginal repatriation from collections in New South Wales                                             

What to do if you find human remains

If you think you have found human remains in the landscape, do not disturb them and contact your local police station immediately. The police will contact us and the State Coroner’s Office to determine whether the remains are of Aboriginal origin.

What to do if you have Aboriginal remains

Do not post or bring ancestral remains to us. If you have any Aboriginal ancestors or objects in your possession contact us by:

Phone: Environment Line 131 555

Email: info@environment.nsw.gov.au

To make sure Aboriginal ancestors are reburied on their own Country, it is important to provide as many details as possible about them. The smallest detail can often be significant.

Repatriation support

We support repatriation efforts through

  • conducting research to understand where the Aboriginal ancestors or objects were taken from
  • engaging with communities, landholders and agencies to help coordinate returns
  • working with museums by sending community representatives to identify Aboriginal ancestors and objects
  • organising travel for community representatives to collect Aboriginal ancestors and objects across Australia (if the Aboriginal ancestors are connected to NSW)
  • funding the preparation, packing, transportation and freight of Aboriginal ancestors and objects for return
  • facilitating return to Country celebrations.