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Government effort on repatriation “totally insufficient”

Kamilaroi Elder & prominent repatriation advocate Bob Weatherall says “Australia’s cultural heritage legislation does not meet the requirements and standards of international conventions to which it is a signatory”. IMAGE: Brendon Qu

This lack of government funding also committed to the program in 201213. The funding is distributed among has forced Mr Weatherall to “chase Kamilaroi Elder and prominent eight major museums across Australia. other resources, other funding repatriation advocate Bob Weatherall Mr Weatherall believes the sum support and sponsorships from claims Australian governments are of money provided by government private corporations, philanthropic failing to live up to their obligations is “totally insufficient” and that $10 organizations, churches and unions”. when it comes to assisting the return million per year “at a minimum” would “Our people will not heal, and the of ancestral remains and cultural be a far more realistic amount given country won’t heal unless we take back objects from Australian and overseas the enormous number of remains yet our remains and fulfil our customary to be identified and returned. institutions. obligations to our ancestors,” he said. The veteran activist is currently “Repatriation is part of a holistic “They [government] have a moral working towards repatriating approach to closing the gap in our obligation as well as a legal obligation Kamilaroi remains from the disadvantage and healing our own to ensure that Aboriginal people are Queensland Museum home to burial communities. We believe that if we fully resourced to undertake their grounds in St George. put culture first, then we ourselves will customary rights to lay their people to “We have now received be able to establish strong, healthy and rest,” said Mr Weatherall, Chairman some limited support from them sustainable communities.” of Brisbane’s Centre for Indigenous [government], but it doesn’t meet the Cultural Policy. To Mr Weatherall’s dismay, the budgeted amount. It’s a very small The Commonwealth Government’s amount of money compared to what federal government also recently passed Indigenous Repatriation Program they have gained from Aboriginal legislation that has the potential to draws on funding from a ‘special people. The QLD museum has been a impact on the ability of First Nations account’ which on June 30, 2012 had beneficiary, filling up their collections peoples to have cultural objects returned a balance of 2.783 million dollars. An with Aboriginal human remains and if they’re exhibited in overseas or Australian institutions. additional allocation of $597,000 was secret sacred objects.” By Callum Clayton-Dixon Nganyaywana


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WEATHERALL: who owns Aboriginal cultural property? Having been given royal assent on March 14 this year, the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Bill 2012 established an ‘immunity from seizure’ scheme.

can “prevent Aboriginal people from filing a case to have cultural objects returned” and that it demonstrated a clear lack of genuine consultation with First Nations people.

people’s customs, traditions and belief systems are being maintained, protected and preserved. The question that our communities have got to ask themselves is who owns “Australia’s cultural heritage Aboriginal cultural property? legislation does not meet the “Aboriginal people have got to requirements and standards of stand up.” international conventions to which it is a signatory,” he said.

This legislation provides “protection against potential claims on cultural heritage objects lent by an international or domestic collection to cultural agencies [e.g. museums, galleries, libraries] for the duration of “We can see there’s a culture the loan”. It also overrides existing basically being destroyed because of heritage laws. the government’s lack of commitment Mr Weatherall says such legislation in legislation to ensure that Aboriginal

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repatriation funding "totally insufficient"