• Offered by Research School of Humanities and the Arts
  • 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
    • Prof Cressida Fforde
  • Mode of delivery Online
  • Offered in Winter Session 2023
    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, the intention is that the course is delivered on Ngarrindjeri country in South Australia, or on Yawuru and Bunuba country in the Kimberley. Applicants are advised that due to circumstances beyond the University's control (for example, internal border restrictions or areas of high risk) it may not be possible for students to commence or complete this course on location as advertised, in which case an alternative online lesson plan will be arranged to fulfil the course requirements.

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:

  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

  1. Synthesis of 5 key texts (1500 words) (30) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Group Presentation - 20 mins presentation, 10 mins discussion (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Research essay (4500 words) (60) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

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. & 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.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5820
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4321 04 Sep 2023 08 Sep 2023 08 Sep 2023 09 Sep 2023 In Person N/A

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