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Return to Country: Repatriation and Resilience

“We’re told to ignore our feelings sometimes. Ignore the past and memories which are in our blood. But I wasn’t taught that. I was taught to connect to who I am. And once you connect to that, you’re awakened.” – Jason Tamiru

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Content warning: The Wheeler Centre wishes to advise this recording includes discussion about human bodies in collections, which were taken from their cultural places against the wishes of First Nations communities.

Repatriation is an issue at the heart of many cultural institutions, as museums and galleries reckon with the violent colonial histories that underpin significant portions of their collections. Once sought and traded as aesthetic trophies and scientific evidence, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects and ancestral remains, housed and hidden in institutions across the world are thought to number in the many thousands.

Malthouse Theatre’s production of The Return which premiered as part of RISING in 2022, engaged with the importance of returning these items and remains back to Country. This epic theatre experience spanned 250 years and explored the untold perspectives of these macabre true histories and the false justifications behind them.

In this episode, hear from The Return’s writer John Harvey and co-director Jason Tamiru, along with senior curator Kimberley Moulton. With host Daniel James, the panel consider the play’s themes, alongside Moulton’s insights into alternative models of collection and display that prioritise community access and situate these cultural belongings within a continuous flow of history. At the intersection of creative exploration and institutional knowledge, they discuss how the repatriation of Ancestors can bring us closer to truth-telling and First Peoples agency in museums.

Presented in partnership with RISING and Malthouse Theatre.

This event was recorded on Tuesday 31 May 2022 at the Wheeler Centre.

Featured music is DEX 1200 – The Chakra Movement

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.