Ambassador Volk Advocates for Greater Cooperation and Investment to Secure Heritage

Australian Ambassador to Nepal, Felicity Volk, has urged governments to enhance resources and funding for the protection and restitution of cultural heritage. Speaking at the National Conference on Restitution of Heritage, Ambassador Volk emphasized the importance of creating inventories of heritage items, identifying stolen artifacts, and managing restitution processes effectively.

“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,” she stated during her address.

The conference, held on May 26 and 27, was jointly hosted by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal, and the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign. Ambassador Volk expressed confidence in Nepal’s ability to influence global approaches to heritage preservation, highlighting the country’s historical significance as a center of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

“This reflects the role the country has played for thousands of years as the epicenter of tangible and intangible cultural heritage that has reached out into the region and beyond,” she added.

The Australian Embassy’s support for the two-day conference follows the return of a 13th-century tympanum (tundal) from Australia to the Ratneshwor temple in Patan during the official visit of Australia’s Assistant Foreign Minister, the Hon Tim Watts, in May 2023. The embassy’s statement reiterated Australia’s commitment to cultural heritage protection.

Melanie Eastburn, Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), attended the conference, funded by the Australian Government. She shared insights from Australia’s restitution experiences, particularly her work on the return of the Yakshitundal to Nepal in 2023. Eastburn participated in a panel titled “Lived Experiences of Repatriations: Return to the Community,” providing valuable perspectives on the process of repatriating cultural artifacts.

The conference highlighted the need for international cooperation and robust local systems to protect and preserve cultural heritage, ensuring that misappropriation is neither acceptable nor possible.


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