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Henrietta excited about national role protecting precious cultural items

Published:27 July 2017

Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie will help ensure that movable cultural material which is part of Australia’s identity is adequately protected when considered for trade or exchange.

After three decades of involvement in protecting Indigenous cultural items, CQUniversity’s Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie is excited about the chance for a broader national role.

The Cairns-based academic will help ensure that movable cultural material which is part of Australia’s identity is adequately protected when considered for trade or exchange.

She has been appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee by Minister for the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield, on the recommendation of Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion.

The Committee assesses applications for export permits and funding applications from the National Cultural Heritage Account.

As part of the 10-person committee, Assoc Prof Marrie will also advise the Minister for the Arts about issues related to cultural heritage.

Henrietta says the new committee role fits well with her decades of involvement with legislation and case studies relating to the protection of Indigenous cultural items.

“This new role will provide insight into the precious cultural items, the jewels in the crown of our cultural heritage in Australia,” Henrietta says.

Only two years ago, the CQUni academic had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the British Museum to gain a preview of the Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation exhibition.

As an Elder of the Gimuy Walubara clan of the Yidinji people in north Queensland, and as part of the Indigenous Reference Group from the National Museum of Australia delegation, Henrietta viewed key cultural objects in the British Museum’s extensive collection of approximately 6000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander items.

The delegation was present for a private welcoming ceremony for the objects in the exhibition, as a way of ceremonially reconnecting them to Indigenous Australia, prior to the official opening. The objects continue to have strong cultural resonance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with some Indigenous people seeking the return of the objects.

"I felt extremely privileged to be part of the delegation that attended the welcoming ceremony and the exhibition’s official opening by his Royal Highness Prince Charles, patron of the exhibition," Henrietta says.

"The visit for me was particularly personal as I was able to see the shell head-dress worn by my great-grandfather, Ye-i-nie, a great warrior, when he was given a king-plate in 1905, naming him 'King of Cairns'.”

In November of 2015, many of the Indigenous cultural objects from the British Museum were sent to Australia to be shown as part of the related exhibition, Encounters, at the National Museum in Canberra.