Shane Simpson AM finished a review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 in 2015.

Why we want your input

The review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (PMCH Act) focussed on the appropriate settings for protection and regulation, and explored other similar protection schemes in Australia and overseas.

How you can voice your opinion

The review is now closed.

What will be the outcome of this consultation?

The review proposes a new model to modernise and simplify the legislation.

    The issue

    The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (PMCH Act protects Australia's movable cultural heritage and provides for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from its country of origin and imported into Australia. It gives effect to Australia's agreement to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.

    Consultation for the review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act

    Mr Shane Simpson AM was appointed in 2014 to do an independent review of the PMCH Act. The review's methodology included research and development, and broad national consultation (including a national survey) towards developing a new model.

    Mr Simpson released a position paper on 1 July 2015 outlining a new model for the regulation of cultural material in Australia based on research and consideration of submissions made by the sector to past reviews.

    More than 40 meetings were held in all state and territory capital cities between July and August 2015. Over 500 institutions and individuals were invited to attend, including collecting institutions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, special interest groups, the commercial arts sector, non-government organisations, academics and state, territory and Commonwealth government bodies. Consideration was also given to submissions made to the 2009 review of the PMCH Act. The review also received 120 survey responses and 40 emails and letters from individuals and organisations.

    Thank you to everyone who attended consultation meetings and contributed to the survey, your comments informed the final version of Mr Simpson's proposed new model and the report to the Australian Government.

    The independent report, Borders of Culture: Review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, Final Report 2015, was submitted to the Australian Government on 30 September 2015. The report proposed a new model based on the principles below, these principles will provide the basis for an update of the legislation.

    • a simpler legislative framework for regulating the export and import of cultural material
    • objective standards to define the material being regulated
    • clear, practicable criteria for determining the significance of the material
    • a more efficient assessment process through a greater degree of title, provenance and asset description information from applicants applying for permits
    • adherence to principles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander decision-making
    • a distinction between Ancestral remains and objects
    • interaction with other Commonwealth, state and territory legislation and regulatory schemes
    • a flexible and risk-based approach to assessment processes
    • clearer guidance to decision-makers throughout the process
    • quicker decision so that applications are more cost effective and processed faster
    • transparency at all stages including application, process and decision
    • a new classification system for protecting the nation's most important cultural material that:
      • better reflects the true richness of the cultural heritage of Australia and the diverse regions and places that make up the nation
      • protects material already found to be significant by Commonwealth, state and territory governments and
      • provides a flexible and living category of material which attracts high-level protection (currently only available to the static melange that is Class A)
    • more effective prosecution procedures (such as varying the burden of proof in certain circumstances where the relevant  evidence is reasonably expected to be in the control of the applicant rather than the Government)
    • an extension of the current General Permit system to a wider group of approved organisations
    • a transparent process for testing foreign claims for returning illegally exported material that is consistent with international models and compliant with relevant treaties
    • mechanisms that are informed by other international conventions relating to cultural property (including a cohesive and consolidated process for the return of looted and stolen cultural material) and
    • updating enforcement and offence provisions to ensure they are in line with current best practice.


    The final report for the review is below.

    The terms of reference for the review are below.

    The July 2015 position paper can be found below.