May 26, 2005

Australia to return artefacts to British Museum

Posted at 8:53 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The case of the aboriginal bark etchings, has been going on for the last year. They were on loan in Australia from the British Museum, but prevented from being returned by the aboriginals. It seems now though that the state of Victoria has ruled that they should be returned to the British Museum.
In many ways this is a sad decision for the aboriginal tribes involved. However on the other hand the way that they went about achieving their goals by trying to retain the items while they were on loan could only have served to make the British Museum far more wary of loaning items in the future had they succeeded.

ABC (Australia)

Thursday, 26 May 2005, 06:46:15 AEST
Artefacts decision ‘costs Indigenous people’

Victoria’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Gavin Jennings, has refused to prevent three Indigenous artefacts being returned to institutions in Britain.

The items were on temporary loan from the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in London.

The items, originally from northern Victoria, were due to be returned to London last year.

The two bark etchings and an emu figure have been at the centre of an unresolved legal battle over whether the Museum of Victoria can be stopped from sending them back to London.

Indigenous leaders from northern Victoria had hoped Mr Jennings might issue a preservation order keeping them in Australia but he has now ruled that out.

“On the balance of those issues I have determined not to exercise the power under the Commonwealth Act,” he said.

“I have made a decision that comes at a great cost to Aboriginal people in Victoria.”

Mr Jennings says he does not want to jeopardise the repatriation of other artefacts held around the world by intervening over the three that are currently in dispute.

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