Seven sacred Indigenous objects have been returned to central Australia from an American university.

A delegation of Warlpiri men from Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, collected the objects after they were repatriated from the University of Virginia last week.

The American university houses some 2200 Australian First Nations artefacts in its Kluge-Ruhe collection, in what is the most significant collection of such objects outside of Australia.

But the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has partnered with the university to bring the items home.

“The primary aim of the program is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians to make decisions about their cultural heritage,” the institute’s chief executive Craig Ritchie said.

“We aim to influence the development of changes to institutional repatriation practices, policy, and guidelines and to foster relationships between collecting institutions abroad and Indigenous communities in this country.”

A private ceremony to mark the return of the Warlpiri material will happen once the items arrive in the Yuendumu community.

“All the objects overseas, if they belong to Warlpiri, they need to come back to our country, where they come from,” Warlpiri men Geoffrey Jagamara Mathews and Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka said.

“We are glad to see this material come back to Australia from America, but we need more help for all our material to come back. 

“Their final resting place is on country.

“We’re opening the gates for other tribes as well, to help people in other places to get their things back.”