Being Collected: insights into repatriation

Assistant Curator, Matt Poll, brings together Aboriginal people working on repatriation in community and other sectors to reflect on their experiences.

Repatriation is often centred on the return of material immorally acquired such as human remains and sacred objects. Over the last 25 years museums across Australia have proactively engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the return and future management of material collections. The return to Country often involves complex, private discussion and negotiation around logistical issues.

Repatriation has also led to museums increasing their involvement in returning and sharing collections to their custodians, such as the return of copyright to a family or community for artworks retained by the institution. Such programs frequently bring new engagements and ideas to museums and facilitate better and more culturally attuned access for custodians to their collections within the museum.

Behind the scenes of the good news stories of repatriation are a network of community elders and project workers who facilitate the logistics of returning cultural property on a case-by-case basis. This panel discussion facilitated by the University’s Assistant Curator, Indigenous Heritage, Matt Poll, brings together Aboriginal people working in community, museum and Government sectors to reflect on their experiences.

This event was held on Monday 27 August at the University of Sydney.


  • Marcus Hughes
    Head of Indigenous Engagement and Strategy
    Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

  • Barrina South
    Senior Team Leader
    Regional Heritage Operations
    South East Region, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

  • Shaun Angeles
    Artwe-kenhe (Men’s) Collection Researcher
    The Strehlow Research Centre
    Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

  • Matt Poll
    Assistant Curator, Indigenous Heritage, Repatriation Project Officer
    Macleay Museum, University of Sydney


Image (at top): Arrernte elders on Country, 1894. W Baldwin Spencer, Horn Expedition to Central Australia, Albumen print. Transferred from Archives, The University of Sydney 1985, Macleay Museum, HP85.26.4

Sign up for our newsletter

Each month we'll send you details about upcoming events, and a selection of podcasts.

You might also like