Ambassador Volk Calls For Greater Cooperation And Investment To Secure Heritage

Ambassador Volk Calls For Greater Cooperation And Investment To Secure Heritage

May 29, 2024, 12:11 p.m.

Australia’s Ambassador to Nepal Felicity Volk joined the National Conference on Restitution of Heritage from 26-27 May, to urge deeper cooperation among countries, governments and communities for the restitution of stolen heritage to places of origin.

Following the return of a 13th century tympanum (tundal) from Australia to Ratneshwor temple in Patan during the official visit of Australia’s Assistant Foreign Minister, the Hon Tim Watts, in May 2023, the Australian Embassy was pleased to provide support for the two-day conference. Senior curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Melanie Eastburn, joined the conference, with funding from the Australian Government, to provide perspectives from Australia’s restitution experiences.

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Addressing the conference, which was jointly hosted the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal and the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign, Ambassador Volk called on all governments to adequately resource and fund those tasked with creating inventories of heritage, identifying stolen artefacts and managing restitution processes.

She continued, ‘It is vital that governments support local communities to properly secure both existing and returned heritage; and I ask us all to invest in a culture of accountability and enforcement where it is neither acceptable nor possible for those outside and within social or official systems to misappropriate heritage items.”

Ambassador Volk welcomed the ‘Lalitpur Declaration’ by the National Conference on Heritage Recovery as a foundation for a planned international conference on restitution to be hosted in Nepal in early 2025. The Declaration calls on the Government of Nepal to “develop 'heritage diplomacy' as a key component of its international engagement and take a leadership role in the accelerating worldwide campaign for return of heritage”.

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Ambassador Volk said, “I believe Nepal is well placed to take forward these conversations and to shape global approaches. This reflects the role the country has played for thousands of years as the epicentre of tangible and intangible cultural heritage that has reached out into the region and beyond.”

AGNSW Senior Curator Eastburn spoke about her work on the return to Nepal of the Yakshi tundal in 2023, on a panel titled, “Lived Experiences of Repatriations: Return to the Community”.

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