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Ceremony and items in Victoria Park, Sydney
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Policies and guidelines

Meeting international best practice
We create policies, procedures and guidelines to inform our practice and ensure we comply with relevant legislation. The creation of these documents is an ongoing process.

Sydney University Museums are part of the University of Sydney and operate within the policies of the University. You can find out more about our collection guidelines and repatriation policy below.

The collections guidelines (pdf, 913KB) inform the management, curation, and development of the Sydney University Museums collections and details how museum staff carry out their responsibilities. The purpose of these guidelines is to articulate the ethics, standards and practices of activities relating to the ownership, management and curation of our collections. These activities include the acquisition, deaccession, documentation, preservation and handling, risk management, loan, exhibition and access to collections.

These guidelines cover the heritage assets of the Sydney University Museums, which include the Macleay, Nicholson and University Art collections.

We support the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including originating communities’ rights to “maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression”.

We recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be empowered to protect, preserve and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression in relation to cultural objects and Ancestral remains currently in our custodial care.

In considering all matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ancestral remains and culturally significant items, we are guided by the general principle that the rights of the Indigenous peoples are of primary concern. We further recognise the importance of the relationship between all First Nations peoples and their cultural heritage, irrespective of current ownership or location.

From 1992 the University has put in place a process for the repatriation of Ancestral remains and significant objects. Working on a case-by-case basis and directed by the relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander governance or custodial group, we work to facilitate the return of Ancestral remains and significant objects in a proper and dignified manner.

There is no time limit on the return of Ancestral remains or culturally significant objects. We accept responsibility for the ongoing custodial care of Ancestral remains and culturally significant objects or items which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or organisations resolve to leave in our care. We undertake to treat these remains and items with all due respect and dignity and to maintain ongoing contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or organisations regarding the future care or return of such items.

Any requests for repatriation are considered through a University Advisory Committee. Please contact the Reparation Officer, Matt Poll, for any further information required.

If you would like further details about our policies, procedures and guidelines, please contact our collection management staff via email university.museums@sydney.edu.au.


Featured image (top of the page): Aboriginal smoking ceremonial equipment, photographed during a ceremony for the return of Old People to Country 2019.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand and our responsibility to respect and care for country, people and spirit.

Collections guidelines

913KB
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