We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement policy

1. Summary

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is located on the lands of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation.  As the state’s leading institution for the visual arts, the Gallery is a vibrant and living art museum that looks out to the world from our location near Yurong and Woolloomooloo in Sydney. The Gallery is dedicated to serving the widest possible audience as a centre of excellence for the collection, preservation, documentation, interpretation and display of art, and a forum for scholarship, art education and the exchange of ideas. The Gallery and its functions are determined by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980. The principal objects of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust, outlined in section 7 of the Act, are to develop and maintain a collection of works of art and to propagate and increase the knowledge and appreciation of art.

The Gallery has long been at the forefront of collecting, displaying and interpreting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and is committed to recognising it as Australia’s premier cultural tradition and celebrating the essential place it holds in the shared history and identity of this country. Working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities has been central to the Gallery’s operations since the very first works were commissioned for the collection in the late 1950s. We respect the ongoing rights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have to their culture and recognise that cultural authority over art does not diminish because a work has entered an institutional collection. The Gallery has an ongoing commitment to best practice in engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all its activities which is formalised in this policy.

2. Authority

a. This policy is established by the director and approved by the Board of Trustees pursuant to the Act.

b. This policy has been developed in collaboration with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture, including the Gallery’s Indigenous Advisory Group.

3. Responsibilities and compliance

The director, with the oversight of the Board of Trustees and the advice of the Indigenous Advisory Group, is responsible for the implementation of this policy.

3.1 Board of Trustees and Indigenous Advisory Group

The Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring this policy is implemented by the director across all relevant areas of the Gallery’s operations. The Indigenous Advisory Group is responsible for providing advice to the director and Gallery staff regarding the policy and the ongoing implementation of the related Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures. The Advisory will monitor and review all aspects set out in this policy and make recommendations, through the chair of the Advisory, to the Board of Trustees in this regard.

The director and deputy director are responsible, through the wider Gallery executive, for ensuring that the processes relating to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, artworks and cultural knowledge conform to all policies and that Gallery staff are aware of, and comply with the policies. All Gallery staff have a responsibility to understand and implement this policy when engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, artworks and cultural knowledge, and to adhere to the associated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures.

4. Definitions

In this policy:

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander means a person who:
a. is of Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent;
b. identifies as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person; and
c. is accepted as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person by their community.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art means artwork by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist or containing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander themes or content. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is defined in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Department means the section of the Gallery with responsibility for overseeing the collection, exhibition and programs related to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Department sits within the overarching Australian Art Department.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander themes or content includes any representations of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, culture, imagery or issues.

Acquisition means the process of obtaining valid Title to an artwork, in accordance with the Art Acquisitions Policy.

Act means the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980.

Board means the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Community is a group of people with a shared heritage, culture, language or geographical location.

Culturally respectful is defined by the relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.

Curator means the person responsible for the conceptual development and research of the collection and exhibitions, including identifying and sourcing loans for exhibition.

Curatorium means the group of selected people convened to assist and advise the curator in the development and realisation of a temporary exhibition.

Director means the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and includes a person appointed as acting director.

Exhibition Executive comprises the director, deputy director, director public engagement, head of exhibitions, head of Australian art, head of international art and the senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Exhibition approvals meeting means the management committee meeting of the Exhibition Executive to approve temporary, collection and online touring exhibitions.

Exhibition parameters includes the objects in the exhibition and their display; whether there is a catalogue and other published material; sponsorship; marketing materials; web materials; public programs; and other products, for example, films.

Gallery means the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Indigenous Advisory Group means the identified group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, arts professionals and leaders who provide ongoing advice to the Gallery.

Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP) means the rights that Indigenous people have, and want to have, in their traditional arts and culture or cultural heritage. Such rights may include the rights to:
a. protect traditional knowledge and sacred cultural material;
b. ensure that traditional laws and customary obligations are respected;
c. attribution or naming of the community associated with such rights;
d. prevent insulting, offensive or misleading uses of such traditional arts and culture; and
e. control the recording of cultural customs and expressions which are essential to cultural identity, knowledge, skill and teaching about Indigenous culture.

Loan in relation to an artwork has the same meaning as in the Incoming Loans Policy.

Local community means the group of people residing where an exhibition takes place.

Registrar means the Gallery staff member responsible for negotiating loan contracts, assessing the legal and physical risks relating to loans, and documenting loans.

Representative means the person nominated by a particular group of people to act on their behalf.

Trustee means a member of the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

5. Policy objectives and principles

5.1 Preamble

a. The Gallery acknowledges that the Gadigal of the Eora nation are the traditional custodians of the land on which the Gallery is located.

b. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is the oldest ongoing tradition of art in the world. Arts and cultural expression continue to be a crucial element of the social, cultural and economic fabric of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities throughout Australia.

c. The visual arts are central to identity, place and belonging. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art embraces global social, cultural and economic changes and is influenced by the wider arts and cultural environment across Australia and internationally. This work is distinct because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have historically come from a unique heritage and culture. The Gallery recognises that contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists often have rights and responsibilities as custodians of culture in relation to their artistic practice and acknowledges that Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) must be respected for both individual and collective cultural rights.

d. As the State’s premier visual arts collecting institution, the Gallery has a crucial role in the collection, exhibition and interpretation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists from across Australia, the Gallery’s collection celebrates Indigenous Australia’s enduring cultural heritage and its myriad of contemporary expressions.

e. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the right to self-determination in their cultural affairs and expression of cultural material. Historically, this right has not always been upheld in Australia. The Gallery will ensure a sense of ownership occurs through appropriate consultation and collaboration with relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, communities, agencies and organisations. The Gallery’s Indigenous Advisory Group will provide ongoing advice to ensure a model of best practice is employed.

f. Ensuring an appropriate Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander voice in all aspects of the Gallery’s dealings with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is central to this policy, which is informed by the principles outlined in the Australia Council’s Protocols for Producing Indigenous Australian Visual Arts and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

g. The Gallery aspires to bring the best Indigenous art to the people of NSW. There is also international interest in the Gallery’s collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. In dealing with loans, acquisitions and the display of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks, the Gallery will take a strong leadership role in encouraging and promoting ethical conduct based on good faith and mutual respect, recognising the diversity of customs and laws pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

5.2 Objectives

This policy sets out the principles the Gallery will apply in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities:

a. to ensure the Gallery applies best practice in engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all its activities, particularly activities concerning:
i. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art
ii. art with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander themes or content.

b. to publicly acknowledge the importance of Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP) and support the recognition of ICIP rights.

5.3 Principles for engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the Gallery will have regard to the following principles:

a. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the right to self-determination in their cultural affairs and expression of cultural material

b. cultural material includes works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, as well as works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander themes and content

c. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have ready access to the Gallery’s collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

d. the purchase of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art by the Gallery does not diminish the artist or relevant community’s cultural interest in the work

e. the Gallery recognises that as ‘living cultures’ the norms and views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may change over time

f. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples will be consulted in the development and implementation of all exhibitions and programs of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art

g. consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be in the form that is most effective for the people concerned, including:
i. where necessary, the first language of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people will be used
ii. where consultation involves a group, the majority of participants will be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
iii. where requested, utilisation of representatives of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people chosen in accordance with the community’s own procedures.

h. consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be led by a curator from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Department who is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person

i. sufficient time will be allowed in the consultation process to enable culturally respectful consultation and follow up to be conducted

j. to the greatest extent practicable, the Gallery will give effect to the views of Aboriginal artists as to how they wish to be represented in exhibitions, programs and related activities

k. to the greatest extent practicable, the Gallery will give effect to the views of relevant communities and where there are differences of views, the Gallery will seek to achieve a consensus

l. there will be fair payment for engagement and consultation rendered in the implementation of these procedures

m. the participation of representatives will be recognised and acknowledged, and ongoing dialogue and engagement fostered wherever possible.

6. Transparency and accountability strategies

6.1 Complaints

a. A complaint may be made to the director or through the Indigenous Advisory Group to the director regarding non-compliance with this policy.

b. The director will ensure all complaints are investigated and that appropriate action is taken in response.

c. The director will advise the complainant of the outcome of the complaint.

6.2 Internal audit

The director will ensure that compliance with these procedures is assessed every 3 years as part of the Gallery’s audit program.

6.3 Staff obligations

This is a Gallery-wide policy. Understanding of this policy and its implementation, in line with the Gallery’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures, is a shared responsibility of all staff. Gallery staff involved in engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are also bound by the Gallery’s Code of Ethics and Conduct, and other relevant Gallery policies, especially but not limited to the Art Acquisition Policy, Collections Management Policy, Conflict of Interest Policy, Deaccession and Disposal Policy, Gifts and Benefits Policy, Copyright and Image Reproduction Policy, Fraud Control Policy, Provenance and Due Diligence Research Policy and Record Keeping Policy.

6.4 Record keeping

a. Appropriate records of consultations and decision making will be maintained in accordance with established Record Keeping Policy and Procedures, in particular in the areas of exhibitions, loans, acquisitions and public programs.

b. Files must include evidence of the consultation and decision-making processes and outcomes including:
i. representatives consulted
ii. methods of consultation, including strategies to facilitate genuine and meaningful exchange
iii. the representative’s decisions or wishes on the matter
iv. the outcome or decision made by the Gallery on the matter
v. any additional outcomes for the community arising from the consultation and engagement and evidence that these have been acted upon.

  • Art Acquisitions Policy

  • Code of Ethics and Conduct

  • Collections Management Policy

  • Conflict of Interest Policy

  • Copyright and Image Reproduction Policy

  • Deaccession and Disposal Policy

  • Exhibitions Development Policy

  • Fraud Control Policy

  • Gifts and Benefits Policy

  • Incoming Loans Policy

  • Outgoing Loans Policy

  • Provenance and Due Diligence Research Policy

  • Record Keeping Policy

7.2 Guidelines, procedures and associated documents

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures

  • Acquisitions and Loans Committee Charter

  • Art Acquisition Procedures

  • Code of Ethics and Conduct

  • Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures

7.2.2 National and international guidelines, procedures and associated documents

7.3 Legislation

7.3.1 Commonwealth legislation

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984

  • Copyright Act 1968

  • Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013

  • Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Regulation 2014

  • Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

  • Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulation 1987

7.3.2 New South Wales legislation

  • Aboriginal Languages Act 2017

  • Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980

  • Freedom of Information Act 1989

  • Government Information Public Access Act 2009

  • Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998

  • State Records Act 1998