Queensland Museum recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first scientists, makers, storytellers, traders and diplomats of Queensland.

We remain committed to the inclusion and celebration of First Nations living cultures in our museums. We will acknowledge past injustices, tell hidden histories, and elevate First Nations voices and knowledge as vital and continuing threads within our organisational fabric.

Queensland Museum maintains ongoing partnerships with First Nations communities and individuals, and the Queensland Museum Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee provides cultural leadership and guidance to the Board and Executive Leadership Team. In 2022, the museum appointed Dr Bianca Beetson as its inaugural Director First Nations.

Your donation can contribute to Queensland’s reconciliation journey by supporting our work with First Nations communities, including:

Queensland Museum staff handling First Nations objects

First Nations career pathways

We are raising funds to create opportunities for First Nations young people to explore museum career pathways. This paid internship program would include cultural heritage training, mentoring networks, and opportunities to work with staff on special projects using our First Nations collections, such as cultural research to record oral histories and storytelling, Indigenous languages, traditional cultural practices and appropriate learning resources.

Worker using a brush on First Nation rock artwork from Burnett River

Repatriation fund

The unconditional repatriation of secret sacred objects to communities of origin helps create healing, justice and reconciliation. For Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is a vital step in fulfilling cultural and spiritual practices so their ancestors may continue their journeys.

Queensland Museum is recognised by the Australian Government as Queensland’s peak body for repatriation. Repatriation is a complex and sensitive process, and we work closely with communities to provide financial and administrative resources to support them.

Current projects include repatriation of the Burnett River Rocks—these 92 engraved boulders were originally located on a significant sacred site on the Burnett River, Bundaberg. They were removed in the early 1970s and scattered across the state. We are partnering with the Bailai, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribelang peoples to identify and return the Burnett River Rocks to Country and more than 30 boulders have been repatriated to date.

Other projects include a collaboration with the United States National Museum of Natural History – Smithsonian Institute, Torres Strait Regional Authority and Traditional Owners of Mer (the most eastern island in the Torres Strait) to return coral collected from the region early last century. The collection is culturally and scientifically significant.

While we have completed over 200 repatriations in past years, we continue to receive ancestral remains and secret sacred objects and other cultural material from organisations and individuals in Australia and around the world, surrendered into the museum’s care to be returned to Country and their families.

Image of 3D printed Mount Windsor dendroglyph

Digital repatriation

If physical repatriation is not possible and Queensland Museum is considered by community as the safest place, we continue to care for ancestral remains and secret sacred objects in our dedicated Keeping Place, in agreement with and on behalf of community. They may visit at any time.

The advancement of technologies is creating new opportunities to record and preserve objects digitally. Digital repatriation can enable communities to have access to images, recordings, archive documents, research information and reproductions (such as 3D scanned and printed objects), providing a valuable connection—particularly for those in remote and regional communities.

Recent projects include a collaboration with the Western Yalanji people to document a centuries-old dendroglyph (Aboriginal tree carving) at risk of decay using photogrammetry. Three-dimensional renders of the dendroglyph will preserve the carving’s intricate details in perpetuity.

You can also support First Nations reconciliation and repatriation by joining the Guardians of Queensland Museum.

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