chapter  19
10 Pages

: Repatriation: Australian Perspectives

ByMichael Green, Phil Gordon

In its broadest sense, “repatriation” is the act of returning or restoring something, usually a person, to the country of origin. It is an action that occurs worldwide, probably on a daily basis, as the bodies of recently deceased tourists, soldiers on overseas tours of duty, and traveling businessmen and women (among others) are recovered by local authorities and returned to their homelands, to waiting families and friends. From a cultural heritage perspective, however, the word has recently been imbued with a more specific meaning-namely, the return, back to their communities of origin, of Indigenous cultural patrimony (ancestral property) whose historical removal was facilitated by a colonial regime. An inference often attached to such acts of repatriation is that the initial removal was undertaken in a way that would not be sanctioned by today’s ethical or legal standards (this is not to say that these same actions were con-

doned at the time). The act of repatriation then becomes an act of reparation (Skrydstrup 2005), an action of making amends for a wrong done. At this point, all sorts of values can be, and often are, applied to the act itself and should be supported, indeed endorsed, by us all.