In 1993, the International Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Council of Australian Museum’s Association—now Museums Australia— released Previous Possessions, New Obligations: Policies for Museums in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The introduction to this policy document states:

Museums have tended to see their major role as collecting and maintaining objects. But they in fact have obligations to people, most particularly as to how they portray the people and societies whose cultural material and heritage they hold. Increasingly, museums need to strengthen their relationships with the peoples and communities whose material culture forms the basis of their collections. Museums in Australia wish to join with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in collaborative programs to increase understanding amongst all peoples.

Museums Australia’s policy encourages all State and Territory museums to work closely with indigenous people to interpret, display and preserve their cultural property. Part of this policy includes the identification and repatriation—to their rightful custodians—of culturally sensitive Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander material in museums.

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