Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Policy (MPF1289)

  • Category: Engagement
  • Review due by: June 23, 2021
  • Version: 2
  • Policy Steward: Vice-Principal, Engagement
  • Approved on: June 23, 2016
  • Effective date: July 21, 2016
  • Policy Approver: Council
  • Status: Published

1. Objective

The objective of this policy is to articulate the University’s obligations for managing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all teaching, research and collection areas in the University which hold secret or sacred objects, human remains or manage burial artefacts. The areas include academic divisions, libraries, archives, regional campuses.

3. Authority

This policy is made under the University of Melbourne Act 2009 (Vic) and Council Regulation, and supports compliance with the:

(a)    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth);

(b)    Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2016 (Vic); and

(c)    International Council of Museums Code of Ethics (2004).

4. Policy

4.1   The University manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage in a way that recognises the relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as primary guardians of the heritage, and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, and cultural and traditional practices.

4.2   In particular, the University manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects in ways compatible with relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and customs for such objects, including any gender specific traditions and customs, where these traditions and customs can be ascertained.

4.3   The University underpins custodianship and management of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage it holds by genuine and effective partnerships with the relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, wherever possible.

4.4   The University reports all aboriginal human remains as soon as practicable and transfers them to the relevant government authority.  The University assists the relevant government authority to repatriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains and secret or sacred objects as a priority to help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to meet their cultural obligations and address the injustice of Australia’s shared past in removing such remains and objects.

4.5   The University’s management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains reflect traditional or familial links, as owners, to those remains, wherever practicable.

4.6   The University manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sacred or secret objects in ways that recognise such objects should be owned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with traditional or familial links to the areas from which the objects originated.

4.7   The University manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures across all its campuses, and to further understanding and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

5. Procedural principles

5.1   The Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement) provides for the overall management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage in line with the principles of this policy, specifically:

(a)      advising the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council or an equivalent authority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects held by the University;

(b)      facilitating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secret or sacred objects held by the University;

(c)      whenever practicable, entering into agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the management and protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects;

(d)      providing practical guidance to members of the University community of their responsibilities, and the University’s responsibilities, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, including legal obligations; and

(e)      developing strategies for the use of University collections containing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and meaningful engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

5.2   Any record created as a result of this policy will be managed in accordance with the University's Records Management Policy.

Controlled activities

5.3   The legislative authorities of this policy and other similar laws control certain activities in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. Controlled activities include:

(a)      possessing, harming, buying or selling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage;

(b)      removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place or disturbing such a place for the purposes of uncovering such heritage;

(c)      removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage from Victoria;

(d)      exporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage from Australia.

5.4   The University and its staff must not initiate, undertake, allow or participate in any such activities, except with the approval of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement).

5.5   The Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) ensures compliance with the legislative regime that controls these activities by taking the steps necessary to ensure that the University and its staff initiate, undertake, allow and participate in such activities only in accordance with the legislative regime that controls these activities, and where required by the legislation;

(a)    notify the relevant government authority of any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains held by the University, as soon as practicable;

(b)    recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains held by the University and enter into arrangements for the custody of such remains to reflect the ownership; and

(c)    transfer any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains in the possession of the University to the relevant government authority.

6. Roles and responsibilities

Role/Decision/Action 

Responsibility 

Conditions and limitations

Provide for the overall management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement)

In line with the principles of this policy

Ensure compliance with legislative instruments specified in section 3, Authority, and with any other legislative instruments that may apply.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement)


Approve the initiation or undertaking of any controlled activity.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement)

In accordance with this policy and the legislative authorities


7. Definitions

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander means belonging to the Indigenous peoples of Australia and any descendant of those peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander places, objects and human remains.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander object means an object that is associated with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation of any part of Australia or removed or excavated from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place and which is of cultural heritage significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes archives and excludes objects made for sale (except those made for exchange in accordance with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place means an area that is of cultural heritage significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition means the body of traditions, observances, customs and beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally or of a particular community or group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Cultural heritage significance means significance in accordance with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition and archaeological, anthropological, contemporary, historical, scientific, social or spiritual significance.

Sacred or secret means sacred or secret according to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition.

Traditional or familial links means, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains or sacred or secret Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects, that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person has responsibility for the remains or objects under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition or is a member of a family or clan group that is recognised as having responsibility for the remains or objects under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition.

POLICY APPROVER

Council

POLICY STEWARD

Vice Principal, Engagement

REVIEW

This policy is to be reviewed by 23 June 2021.

VERSION HISTORY

Version

Authorised by

Approval Date

Effective Date

Sections modified

1

Council

25 August 2014

25 August 2014

New policy

2

Governance and Nominations Committee authorised by Council

23 June 2016

21 July 2016

New version arising from the Policy Consolidation Project.


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