Over 1800 Indigenous artefacts have been formally returned to Australia from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem this week.
The large collection of stone tools, grindstones and other material was originally donated to the Israel Museum in the 1970s by a Mr Carl Shipman of Melbourne.
The repatriation marks the first time Aboriginal cultural materials have been sent home from the Middle East.
With funding from the Australian Government, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) led the Return of Cultural Heritage initiative which aims to “facilitate and secure the return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials from overseas to Australia.”
Speaking at the event, AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie said he was overjoyed.
“This work is central to what we are about in AIATSIS – helping Indigenous people to facilitate cultural resurgence in their communities. It’s not just ceremonial items or spiritually significant objects that matter. These are everyday items, used in everyday life that is the basis of culture.
“The other important thing is that this program exerts an influence on the practices of those collecting institutions that engage on the process of return.”
Also attending was the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt who said, “every time we lose an Elder or a Traditional Owner, we lose a walking encyclopedia of knowledge that can never be replaced.”
“When you look at those artefacts you think of the old hands that made those, that person making one spearhead, and then you think of its use. But you also see the engineering feat,” Minister Wyatt said
The collection will be temporarily housed at AIATSIS in Canberra while further research is undertaken to identify the correct area and communities/custodians responsible for the cultural heritage materials.