This is a brief excerpt from the document you requested from IFAR’s Art Law & Cultural Property Database.

Country Summary for AUSTRALIA

I.  Relevant Legislation
II.  Regulated Cultural Property


“Movable Cultural Heritage of Australia”—objects of importance to Australia for ethnological, archaeological, historical, literary, artistic, scientific or technological reasons, and that fall within one (or more) of the following categories:

1) objects recovered from the soil or waters of Australia, or from the seabed or subsoil beneath the sea of Australia;
2) objects relating to the Aboriginals and their descendants;
3) objects of ethnographic art or ethnography;

4) military objects;

5) objects of decorative art;

6) objects of fine art;

7) objects of scientific or technological interest;

8) books, records, documents or photographs, graphic, film or television material or sound recordings; and

9) any of the following prescribed categories:

a) archaeological objects of non-Australian origin;

b) natural science objects;

c) numismatic objects;

d) objects of social history; and

e) philatelic objects.
(MCHA §§ 7, 3)

“Protected Object”Australian Protected Object or a protected object of a foreign country. (MCHA § 3(1))

“Protected Zone”area consisting of sea or sea and land upon which a Historic Shipwreck or a Historic Relic is situated that the Minister HSA has declared to be as such. (HSA §§ 3(1) & (7))

“Control List”National Cultural Heritage Control List, which is a list of categories of objects that constitute the Movable Cultural Heritage of Australia subject to export control. (MCHA §§ 3(1) & (8))

“Australian Protected Object”Class A or Class B object on the Control List. (MCHA § 3(1))

“Class A”objects from Aboriginal heritage such as: sacred and secret ritual objects, bark and log coffins used as traditional burial objects, dendroglyphs, human remains, rock art, and the Victoria Cross medal. (MCRH Sched. 1, Parts 1-9) 

“Class B”objects:
1) relating to famous and important Aborigines or to other persons significant in Aboriginal history, objects made on missions or reserves, and objects relating to the development of Aboriginal protest and self-help movements;
2) of certain value including previous metals, minerals, tapestries, carpets, watercolors, pastels, drawings, sketches, paintings, sculptures, prints, posters, photographs, or similar works of art;
3) relating to seagoing exploration, transportation, and supply and commerce, including
ordnance (artillery), coins, ships’ gear, anchors, cargo and personal items from shipwrecks, sunken ships and landfalls, ships’ logbooks and other documentation;
4) relating to military activity, convict transportation and settlement, and objects relating to
missionary activity; and
5) relating to the history of mining, processing, industry, technology and manufacture in
Australia, biological or ethnographic objects or collections, and any paleontological object. (MCHR Sched. 1, Parts 1-9)

“Dutch Shipwreck”

1) the wrecked vessels named the “Batavia,” the “Vergulde Draeck” (also known as
the “Gilt Dragon”), the “Zuytdrop,” and the “Zeewyk;” or
2) any other wrecked vessel mentioned in Art. 1 of the Australia-Netherlands Agreement.
(HSA §3(1) & Sched. 1-2)

“Papua New Guinea Shipwreck”remains of a ship of historic or special significance to Papua New Guinea that are situated in Australian waters, which the Minister HSA declares as such. (HSA §§ 3(1), 5(5))

“Historic Shipwreck”
1) remains of a ship at least 75 years old that are situated in Australian waters and that the Minster declares as such;
2) re
mains of a ship that are situated in Australian waters that the Minister HSA declares are (either provisionally or otherwise) of historic significance;
a Dutch shipwreck; or
4) a Papua New Guinea shipwreck. (HSA §§ 3(1), 4(A)(1)-(2), 5(1)-(3))
“Dutch Relic”
an article mentioned in Article 1 or 2 of the Australia-Netherlands Agreement. (HSA § 3(1) & Sched. 1)

“Papua New Guinea Relic”an article that is of historic or special significance to Papua New Guinea and was associated with a ship that is situated in Australian waters, which the Minister HSA declares as such. (HSA §§ 3(1) & 5(6))

“Historic Relic”
1) an article at least 75 years old that was associated with a ship and is situated in Australian waters that the Minister HSA declares as such;
2) an article that was or is associated with a ship that is situated in Australian waters that the Minister HSA declares is of historic significance;
3) a Dutch Relic; or
4) a Papua New Guinea Relic. (HSA §§ 3(1), 4A (6)-(7), 5(2)-(3), 6(2)-(3))

“Aboriginal”a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia, including a descendant of the Indigenous inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands. (AHPA §3(1))

“Aboriginal Remains”whole or part of the bodily remains of an Aboriginal, but does not include:
1) bodies buried in accordance the law or in a recognized burial ground;
2) objects made from human hair or other bodily material not readily recognized as such; or 
3) bodies dealt in accordance with the law relating to medical treatment or post-mortem examinations. (AHPA §3(1)) 

“Significant Aboriginal Object”object (including Aboriginal Remains) of particular significance to the Aboriginals in accordance with Aboriginal Tradition. (AHPA §4(1))

“Aboriginal Tradition”body of traditions, observances, customs, and beliefs of Aboriginals, and includes any such traditions, observances, customs, or beliefs relating to particular persons, areas, objects or relationships. (AHPA §3(1))

“Aboriginal Area”area in Australia or in Australian waters that is of particular significance to the Aboriginals in accordance with Aboriginal Tradition. (AHPA §3(1)) 

“Committee”National Cultural Heritage Committee, which furnishes advice to the Minister MCHA and establishes and maintains the Register of the MCHA. (MCHA §3(1))

“Inspector”—a person who is appointed by the Minister MCHA or HSA and is a member or special member of the state or federal police that is granted certain powers under the MCHA and the HSA. (See MCHA §§ 3(1), 28; HSA §§ 3(1), 22)

“Minister AHPA”Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander & Multicultural Affairs (See APHA §§ 9-19)

“Minister HSA”Minister for the Environment. (HSA §§ 3A, 4A-12)

“Minister MCHA”Attorney-General and Minister of the Arts. (MCHA §§ 10-13, 24)

“MCHA Permit”written permit to export a Class B object that may be obtained through application to the Minster. (MCHA §§ 3(1), 10-11)

“HSA Permit”permit granted by the Minster authorizing that person or any other persons named or described to do an act or thing specified in the permit, the doing of which would otherwise be prohibited. (HSA §15)

“Certificate”certificate of exemption which a person may obtain through application to the Minster for the importation or exportation of an Australian Protected Object. (MCHA §§ 3(1), 12)

“Prescribed Notice”—written notice describing an article and stating where the article is situated required as a result of the Minister HSA’s declaration that an article is or part of a Historic Shipwreck, Historic Relic, Dutch Relic, or Dutch Shipwreck. (HSA §9(6))

“Register of the HSA"Register of Historic Shipwrecks. (HSA §3(1))

“Register of the MCHA”names of persons determined by the Committee to be expert examiners. (MCHA §22 & MCHR §2(1))


The Committee maintains the Control List and the Register of the MCHA. (MCHA §§ 16, 22; MCHR §7)

The Minister HSA maintains the Register of the HSA and enters the particulars of:
a) known remains of ships, and known articles, in relation to Historic Shipwreck declarations and notices of such declarations made by the Minister HSA; and
b) known Dutch Shipwrecks and Dutch Relics. (HSA §12)

III.  Export Restrictions

IV.  Ownership Rights and Restrictions

V.  Violations, Penalties and Sanctions

VI.  International Conventions and Bilateral Agreements
Click here to subscribe to IFAR's Art Law & Cultural Property Database to access this and other documents about U.S. and international legislation and case law concerning the acquisition, authenticity, export, ownership, and copyright of art objects.
Country Contact
for Cultural Property
Mitch Fifield
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Communications and the Arts
42 Florence Street
Mentone VIC 3194
Tel: 03 9584 8347