‘A major step forward for Britains colonial museums’: Manchester Museum returns objects to Indigenous Australians

Mangubadijarri Yanner and Donald Bob, from the Gangalidda group, at Manchester Museum with the artefacts that are being repatriated Photo: AIATSIS

Manchester Museums decision to return 43 sacred and ceremonial objects to Indigenous Australians has been welcomed by some culture professionals who say the move is a game-changing momentin the ongoing restitution debate. Many of the looted artefacts are thought to have arrived in the UK over a century ago.

The repatriation of the objects to the Aranda people of Central Australia, Gangalidda Garawa peoples of northwest Queensland, Nyamal people of the Pilbara and Yawuru people of Broome was announced in early October. A formal ceremony took place earlier this week at Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, when items such as objects made from Emu feathers were handed over to the descendants of Indigenous Australians.

Professor Dan Hicks, the curator of archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, says that Manchester Universitys restitution of these sacred and ceremonial objects is “a major step forward for Britains colonial museums in at least two respects: because it extends the process of return from human remains to ancestral material culture and because its return is apparently unconditional [no conditions].”

He adds: “Its another example of how British non-national, local authority and university museums are playing an increasingly important role in developing equitable global dialogues, and crucially, actions on cultural restitution.”

The repatriation initiative is driven by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), a government research and collections body that is seeking the return of thousands of other sacred Indigenous Australian objects held in UK institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Wellcome Collection.

Christopher Simpson, the director of AIATSIS, told the Guardian that the items had ended up in Britain through “the brutal colonisation of our cRead More – Source