• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Museum and Collection
  • Areas of interest Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, History, Museums and Collections, Heritage Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Cressida Fforde
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Winter Session 2019
    See Future Offerings

The repatriation of ancestral remains is an extraordinary Indigenous achievement and inter-cultural development of the past 40 years. Students join with Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts to explore the history, meaning and significance of repatriation for museums and Indigenous peoples.

Encompassing the historical, cultural and ethical contexts, this intensive course provides a critical framework for introducing repatriation as a key driver of change in museum practice. It aims to inform and critically reflect on Indigenous peoples' efforts to secure the return of ancestral remains and on the development of repatriation policies.  The course considers repatriation both in the domestic and international context. The course will:

• Conceptualise the main issues pertaining to the repatriation of Indigenous ancestral remains, including its historical, ethical and cultural context.
• Explore deeper understandings of repatriation and its inter-connectedness with Indigenous law, culture, ethics, country and community development.
• Consider key aspects of the reburial debate and its influence on museum practice.
• Interpret relevant institutional, agency and government policy regimes, including professional codes of practice and ethics.
• Explore repatriation in its international context.

This course allows students to develop a holistic understanding of repatriation, its history and significance. It provides practical skills to assist in the development of repatriation processes and  features a range of guest lectures and workshops led by Indigenous and non-Indigenous repatriation practitioners from communities, museums, universities and government.

The course may be delivered in different locations depending on community availability, current debates, and policy developments. To provide students with the opportunity to learn about repatriation issues from Traditional Owners on country, in 2015 the intention is that the course is delivered at Camp Coorong (near Meningie, South Australia), an education and outreach facility run by Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners who have extensive experience in repatriation.

Students are required to pay their own fieldwork costs.

Students will only be permitted to travel upon completion of ANU required documentation and the approval of all documentation by the relevant delegate.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. develop a holistic knowledge of repatriation and an understanding of its inter-connectedness with Indigenous law, culture, ethics, country and community development;
  2. develop understanding of key issues of repatriation for museums and other collecting institutions;
  3. critically examine changes in museum ideology and the development of relevant policies and professional codes of ethics;
  4. develop critical and inter-disciplinary skills towards assessment, implementation and analysis of repatriation policies and practices; and
  5. facilitate an understanding of appropriate consultation and working relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders.

Indicative Assessment

Synthesis of 5 key texts, 1500 words (30%) Learning Outcomes 1-4
Group Presentation - 20 mins presentation, 10 mins discussion (10%), Learning outcomes  1-5
Research essay, 4500 words (60%) Learning Outcomes 1-5

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from: a) 45 hours of contact: a combination of lectures, workshops, and site visits delivered intensively over 5 days; and b) 85 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Prescribed Texts

Fforde, C. 2004 Collecting the Dead: Archaeology and the reburial issue. London: Duckworth

C. Fforde, J. Hubert and P. Turnbull (eds) 2002: The Dead and Their Possessions: Repatriation in Principle, Policy and Practice. London: Routledge.

Layton, R. (ed) 1989: Conflict in the Archaeology of Living Traditions. London: Routledge

 P. Turnbull & M. Pickering (eds) (2010) The Long Way Home: The meaning and values of repatriation. Bergahn Books.

Preliminary Reading

Fforde, C. 2013 ‘In Search of Others: the history and legacy of ‘race’ collections. In Tarlow, Sarah, and Liv Nilsson Stutz, eds. The oxford handbook of the archaeology of death and burial. Oxford University Press, Pp. 709-732

Turnbull, P. 2007 ‘Scientific Theft of Remains in Colonial Australia’, Australian Indigenous Law Review, 11, 1(2007): 92-104.

Ormond-Parker, L 2005 Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their cultural heritage in B. Sillar and C. Fforde (eds) "Conservation, Identity and Ownership in Indigenous Archaeology", Public Archaeology: Special Edition on Indigenous Archaeology. Volume 4 Issues 2/3 pp. 127-140.

Museums Australia 2005: Continuous Cultures, Ongoing Responsibilities: Principles and guidelines for Australian museums working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. Available at: http://museumsaustralia.org.au/userfiles/file/Policies/ccor_final_feb_05.pdf

Echo-Hawk, R. C. and Echo-Hawk, W. R. 1994. Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company

Tapsell, P. 2005 ‘Out of sight, out of mind: Maori Ancestral Remains at the Auckland Museum’ In R. Janes & G. Conalty (eds) Looking Reality in the Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility. Glenbow: University of Calgary Press.

Weatherall, R. 2000. Aborigines, Archaeologists and the Rights of the Dead. Paper presented at 1989 WAC Inter-Congress, Vermilion South Dakota. Available at: www.faira.org.au/lrq/archives/200102/stories/dead_rights.html.

Wilson, C. 2009. Implications and challenges of repatriating and reburying Ngarrindjeri Old People from the ‘Edinburgh Collection.’ Museum International 241/242: 37-40

Fforde, C. & J. Hubert 2006 ‘Indigenous Human Remains and Changing Museum Ideology’ in R. Layton, S. Shennan & P. Stone  (eds) A Future for Archaeology. London: UCL Press, Pp83-97.

Fforde, C. L. Ormond-Parker and P. Turnbull (in press): Repatriation Research: Archives and the Recovery of History and Heritage. In R. Redmond Cooper (ed): Human Remains and The Law.

Hemming, S., Rigney, D. & Wilson, C. 2008 ‘Listening and Respecting Across Generations and Beyond Borders: The Ancient One and Kumarangk (Hindmarsh Island) in Bourke, H., Smith, C., Lippert, D., Watkins, J. and Zimmerman, L. (eds) Perspectives on the Ancient One, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 260-267.

Layton, R. 1989. ‘Introduction: conflict in the archaeology of living traditions’. In Layton, R. (ed.) Conflict in the Archaeology of Living Traditions. London: Routledge. Pp. 1-21.

Martinez, D. R., Teeter, W. G. and Kennedy-Richardson, K. (2014), Returning the tataayiyam honuuka' (Ancestors) to the Correct Home: The Importance of Background Investigations for NAGPRA Claims. Curator: The Museum Journal, 57: 199–211. doi: 10.1111/cura.12061

Mulvaney, J. 1989. Bones of Contention. The Bulletin, October, 9.

Ormond-Parker, L 1997: A Commonwealth Repatriation Odyssey Aboriginal Law Bulletin 3(90) http://www.austlii.com/au/journals/AboriginalLB/1997/21.html

Pardoe, C. 2013: Repatriation, reburial and biological research in Australia: rhetoric and practice. In Tarlow, Sarah, and Liv Nilsson Stutz, eds. The oxford handbook of the archaeology of death and burial. Oxford University Press. Pp. 733-762

Pickering, M. 2011 ‘Dance through the minefield. The development of practical ethics for repatriation’. In Marstine, J (Ed) 2011 Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics. Routledge Chapter 16, Pp 256-274.

Tapsell, P. 2012: Partnership in Museums: A Tribal Response to Repatriation. In Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, Second Edition. B.M. Cabonell (Ed.). Chichester. Wiley & Blackwell. pp. 575-579.

Turnbull, P. 1991 Ramsay's Regime: The Australian Museum and the Procurement of Aboriginal Bodies Aboriginal History 15(2): 108 121.

Webb, S. 1987. Reburying Australian Skeletons. Antiquity 61: 292 6

Wilson, C. 2007. Ngarrindjeri Experiences of Repatriation: Engaging in an Effective Consultation Process for Returning Old People. Indigenous Law Bulletin (University of Sydney) 6(29): 16-18.


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Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

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6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $3360
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5160
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Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6437 26 Jul 2019 16 Aug 2019 16 Aug 2019 04 Oct 2019 In Person N/A

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