Museum welcomes Indigenous insight through fellowships

25 August 2011

The Natural History Museum is welcoming representatives from the Torres Strait Islands and Aboriginal Australia who will begin 2 fellowships at the Museum in the autumn.

Emma Loban from the Torres Strait Islands and Carol Christophersen from Darwin, Australia will spend 6 months with the Museum working on projects linked to requests for the return of human remains to their community of origin.

They will work with the Museum to learn about scientific and museum skills, and to develop a shared understanding among the museum community of how Australian Indigenous perspectives might inform the Museum’s future activities.

Both Carol and Emma were selected from 94 applicants, which have been created as part of the current international repatriation of ancestral remains arrangement between the Natural History Museum in London, the Torres Strait Island communities and the Australian Government.

'These fellowships are the first initiative like this outside Australia, and offer everyone involved a great opportunity to learn from each other,' said Phil Rainbow, Museum Interim Director of Science.

Emma Loban works for the Torres Strait Regional Authority as the Operations Exhibitions Manager for Gab Titui Cultural Centre and is the Torres Strait Islander representative.

'I feel extremely honoured to have been selected to work and study at the Natural History Museum. This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire working knowledge, skills and experience in a leading international museum.  Upon my return to Australia, I plan on sharing what I have learned with the Torres Strait community to aid in the next step of the repatriation process.'

Emma is also studying towards an Arts Law degree majoring in anthropology and international relations. She has experience and knowledge working with the Torres Strait Island communities and also worked at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra last year as part of another Fellowship. She has been involved as a volunteer on a leadership programme for students from Indigenous communities in the Cairns region.

Carol Christophersen, is an anthropologist for the Northern Land Council in Darwin and is the Aboriginal representative. She comments, 'I am privileged and very proud to embark on this fellowship.  I am excited and enthusiastic to work in London at the Natural History Museum to offer my skills and to develop new ones to carry out this important role of repatriation.  The issue of returning our families stirs very powerful emotions in all of us, this will be most challenging.  We will be forging relationships and continuing the good work already started by Ned and others before us.  I look forward to working with the Museum.'

Carol has been with the Northern Land Council since 2002 and has extensive experience and knowledge of working with remote communities. Carol has been involved in Indigenous affairs since 1995 and has a strong desire and vested interest to work for Aboriginal people.

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