25 May, 2007

Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct

‘Secret and sacred’ refers to information and material that is restricted under Aboriginal customary law. This may be information and material that:
 is made available only to the initiated, used for a particular purpose and/or used at a particular time
 can only be seen and heard by particular clan members (such as men or women or people with certain knowledge), and
 is considered to be secret or sacred by the community to which it pertains.

Winikoff continued, “Many items of a secret sacred nature currently in collections, were acquired without the consent of the family members and/or the traditional owners. They and their descendants continue to suffer cultural damage through the non-repatriation of these objects.


The Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct, currently nearing completion, outlines the following in relation to the treatment of secret sacred material:

 where possible the relevant community from whom the cultural property was aken should be identified and notified
 consultation should occur to establish the community’s willingness to receive custodianship of secret sacred remains and cultural property
 where repatriation is requested arrangement should be made in consultation with the relevant communities
 appropriate policies for the handling of secret and sacred material once it is identified should be determined and implemented in consultation with the relevant Traditional Owners
 galleries, private dealers and collectors should not engage in the sale of sacred or secret material”.

To read extracts from the Code relating to commercial dealings in secret sacred material download here .


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