Previous Possessions, New Obligations was launched by Museums Australia Inc. in 1993, the International Year for the World's Indigenous People, as a policy framework to guide the development of relationships between museums in Australia and Indigenous Australians. The policy was based on consultation with Indigenous people to develop protocols, policies and procedures for more sensitive collection management and for including Indigenous people in research and public programs; and to address issues of governance. It expressed the values that would underpin new relationships between museums in Australia and Indigenous Australians.
An evaluation of the policy was conducted in 2000 in a collaboration between the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre, Sydney, and Museums Australia Inc., Canberra. The evaluation found that the policy had substantially met its goals, particularly in establishing the primary rights of Indigenous people to control their cultural material in museum collections. However, a range of substantially new issues emerged which require new policy responses and initiatives.