The Functioning of Aboriginal Cultural Protocols in Australia’s Contemporary Art World

Marianne Riphagen, Gretchen Stolte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In recent decades, cultural protocols have emerged as a non-judicial alternative to the inadequate legal protection of Indigenous cultural heritage. They are meant to protect Indigenous peoples from the misappropriation of their heritage by outsiders and enhance Indigenous peoples’ control over their own domain. This article examines the functioning of Indigenous cultural protocols within Australia’s contemporary art world. As we will demonstrate, cultural protocols have clear practical utility. They can raise awareness, instigate changes in behaviour, and operate as a conduit for correcting the unauthorized use of Indigenous cultural materials. Yet, a disjunction exists between codified ideals and a messy reality. Our analysis of two protocol transgressions shows that protocols do not automatically protect Indigenous individuals equally. Furthermore, although discussions about compliance are infused with rhetoric about the authority of “the Indigenous community,” Indigenous people with cultural connections to contested heritage objects do not always have a clear voice in decisions made about their use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-320
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Property
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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