SOLD OUT | On Indigenous Collections: Provenance, Repatriation and Ethics


event Details

One topic that has sparked much debate in the art and museum world in the last decade is the provenance and the ownership of Indigenous artworks and objects from local, national and international communities. Many museum professionals are now concerned with learning about the history and significance of taonga (treasures) in their collections, and ethical considerations regarding ‘ownership’, which can lead to the repatriation of taonga to the correct descendants.

At this event, three museum professionals from Aotearoa and Australia explore provenance and repatriation best practices regarding Indigenous objects and articulate how, if done well, a returning process can be enriching for all people and institutions involved.

This Member event is part of our programme in response to the exhibition Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia and presented in collaboration with Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum. Click here to find out more about our Gallery Member benefits and programme.

Image credit: Ancestor, people not recorded, Torres Strait Islander people, Mask, 19th Century, shell, resin, human hair, fibre string and natural earth pigment on wood, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 2006


Talk One: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Provenance Project

By Jacob O’Keefe, National Gallery of Australia

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Provenance Project, founded in 2020, assesses and documents the provenance of the First Nations art collection of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). Through a selection of case studies, Jacob O’Keefe will give insight into the NGA’s research methods and efforts to discover the history of ownership of this collection and identify counterfeit, inauthentic, culturally inappropriate, or restricted works of art, or works acquired by ‘carpetbagging’. He will also discuss ethical considerations regarding collecting Indigenous artworks and how cultural institutions can best address those.

Talk Two: Object Absence and Presence – Reimagining Space in the Museum

By Chantal Knowles, Head of Human History, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Drawing on her experience of considering repatriation and returns from museums across the globe, Chantal Knowles considers the impact of returning objects from museum collections and the opportunity to rethink the spaces left behind. This talk reflects on the nature of collecting and the benefits of return, considering how relationships between objects, people and place can be reformed and renewed when items move between spaces.

Talk Three: Breathing and Reflecting on Indigenous-to-Indigenous-led Practice

By Juliana Satchell-Deo, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

In November 2022, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum returned four cultural objects to Warumungu Senior men through the AIATSIS Return of Cultural Heritage Programme. This was the first overseas return from the museum and is the first return through the programme. Reflecting on the process of reviewing collections, documenting histories and working with the community, Juliana shares her experience of supporting the transfer of cultural material from whenua to Country.

Q&A: Hear Chantal Knowles, Jacob O’Keefe and Juliana Satchell-Deo discuss provenance and repatriation best practices in the museum sector with Auckland Art Gallery’s Senior Curator, Māori Art, Nathan Pohio, and the public.

This event is for Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland War Memorial Museum Members only. Go to to find out more.

Auditorium, Lower Ground
FREE for AAGTOT and AWWM Members
Book now
<p>Chantal Knowles, Juliana Satchell-Deo and Jacob O&#39;Keefe</p>

Chantal Knowles, Juliana Satchell-Deo and Jacob O'Keefe

About the Speakers

Chantal Knowles is a museum professional who has worked in the United Kingdom, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, and developed permanent galleries at National Museums Scotland and Queensland Museum. Currently, she is Head of Human History at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum. Her research focuses on the role of objects and collections in narrative and sustaining knowledge. She is co-director of Te Aho Mutunga Kore – a textile and fibre centre at Auckland Museum launched January 2023. The centre prioritises Māori and Pacific access to collections to decentre the museum funding projects led by and for communities, knowledge holders and makers.

Juliana Satchell-Deo was brought up in Papua New Guinea, Australia and Fiji. She is of East Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands, Mer Island, Torres Strait Islands (Australia) and Daru Island, Western province (Papua New Guinea) peoples. Juliana is interested in the customary practices of her culture and the specific spatial relationships within these customs and rituals. As Associate Curator, Pacific at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, Juliana works to encourage Truth Telling through the museum’s Pacific collection. Her passion is to support others to connect to their stories, songs, dance, and ways of being so their worldviews are celebrated and nurtured.

Jacob O’Keefe works at the National Gallery of Australia as the Associate Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Provenance. He is a member of the Bundjalung people. Jacob has also worked at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (2017–2020), most recently as Assistant Curator. His work has encompassed provenance research, repatriation, collections policy, copyright and intellectual property. Jacob’s interests include museum and cultural protocols along with caring for cultural material. He holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in cultural heritage and sociology as well as a Diploma of Law and Collections Management.