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Chairperson’s statement

AIATSIS has achieved a great deal despite a number of challenges—one of which we all share: the global pandemic.

As more Australians think about the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, AIATSIS is, and will continue to grow as a flagship Australian cultural institution promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and cultures.

With travel impossible for most of the year, the Return of Cultural Heritage program slowed. Nonetheless, AIATSIS has facilitated the return of a total of 1,942 secret/sacred, ceremonial and secular items to Australia. This year saw returns from three overseas collecting institutions and two private collectors. We are delighted that this initiative is extended to 30 June 2024, with an additional $10 million to support the continued work program, and we acknowledge the support of the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP.

The grants via our Indigenous Research Exchange program continue to receive unprecedented levels of interest, indicating an abundance of Indigenous-led research projects seeking support. We allocated $2.5 million to support the diverse group of projects in round 2 of the program; nine of the 14 projects are administered by Aboriginal organisations. The second round of projects builds on the evidence base to support Indigenous-led decision-making and creation of better public policy.

Our online foundational framework, Core Cultural Learning originally developed for government, is now used by more than 35 non-Commonwealth businesses such as the University of Queensland, which in November 2020 purchased licences to deliver Core to its 18,000+ academic and professional staff. While Core targets the workplace, the AIATSIS Education Strategy, launched at the AIATSIS Summit, targets improved educational outcomes for Indigenous children and more effective sharing of tens of thousands of years of our story with all Australian students.

The AIATSIS Code of Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research, released in October 2020, sets the highest standards for ethics and human rights in research across all disciplines and methodologies. With 623 downloads in the first 10 days after its release, the Code of Ethics is evidence of the many partnerships AIATSIS treasures. We have seen an estimated $14.4 million increase in the value of our partnerships and an unprecedented demand for advice including requests for advice on ethics education, language and native title; and requests to participate on advisory committees, boards and review panels. It is clear that AIATSIS is making a difference on many fronts.

In 2020-21 I welcomed two new members of the AIATSIS Council, Ms Michelle Deshong, a Kuku Yulanji woman from Townsville, and Mr Duane Fraser, a Wulgurukaba and Bidjara traditional owner. I strongly encourage you to read the profiles of our nine Council members, because each and every one is very talented and their experience greatly assists in setting and monitoring the strategic direction for AIATSIS.

I thank Mr Bart Pigram and Ms Sue Kee, both of whom are stepping down from Council, for their guidance, wisdom and professionalism since joining the Council in early 2020.

I look forward to another transformational year ahead.

Jodie Sizer