Collections prevent crime

  • A photo of young people examining ethnographic collections


    Participants of the Youth Reference Group

    Explore the ethnographic collection store at the Australian Museum.

  • A photo of a young Pacific youth man holding an ethnographic object


    Choosing artefacts to use

    Artefacts are selected for use in workshops and community open days.

  • A photo of young people in a museum store room examining objects


    Young people explore woven artefacts

    The youth reference group at work in the museum store.

Everyone knows that the Australian Museum does great work. They’re across all things beasts and bones; they present our natural world in a way that’s inspiring and they’re a one-stop-shop for everything Dinosaur.

But there’s a cultural program run by the Australian Museum which is outstanding. It’s a program with a difference; designed for Pacific young offenders and youth at risk and it connects people to their culture.

The program has several facets that ensure ongoing success; it’s well supported by community; it involves elders and role models spending time with their young people and, it takes advice from an advisory group made up of previous offenders, youth leaders and museum specialists.

But pivotal to the success of the program are the objects from the museum’s collection – known in museum speak as ethnographic artefacts – musical instruments, tools, ceremonial objects, weaponry, decorative objects and the like.

This is repatriation at its best; the giving back of a culture and the reconnection to identity lost.

In this way the objects are the stars of the show – they are evidence of a heritage, of belonging to something long-lived and tangible. Through touching, viewing, using and learning about these objects the participants discover not just their traditional practices, but the depth of pride and purpose embodied in them. There’s a natural reverence for these artefacts which is both end-point and starting-point for a variety of workshops held as part of the program. Artists may use the artefacts in art making, referring to particular motifs or designs and telling stories, musicians may use them for music making. It’s both an educative and a recreational program which can result in young people and families visiting a museum for the very first time.

The program is called the Pacific Youth Reconnection Program, has been running since 2009, and it’s just received a Certificate of Merit as part of the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

This is repatriation at its best; the giving back of a culture and the reconnection to identity lost.


The Pacific Youth Cultural Reconnection Program is presented in partnership with Juvenile Justice NSW part of the Department of Attorneys General and Justice and supported by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Australian Museum Foundation.


You might also like:

Australian Museum blog post: Pacific Youth

Australian Museum blog post: Pacific Youth Day

In this article

Museums & Galleries of NSW helps small-medium museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres create exciting experiences for visitors and, through this, thriving local NSW communities. We don't run museums, galleries and cultural centres but we care about those who do. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

Museums & Galleries of NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

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