Cultural material bought in Australia or overseas is protected by laws. Our role is to help you make sure that you buy, sell, import or export cultural objects legally.

Australia is committed to protecting national and foreign movable cultural heritage.

Movable cultural heritage may include artworks and historical, archaeological, numismatic, philatelic, science or technology objects.

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 ensures objects that have cultural significance remain in Australia. The Act also provides for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from other countries and imported into Australia.

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 2018 contain the National Cultural Heritage Control List, which specifies the categories of Australian cultural property subject to export control. The Explanatory Statement outlines the purpose of the Regulations.

The Regulations were amended by the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2021 to facilitate the exhibition overseas of certain categories of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander bark paintings and enhance the protection of certain Victoria Cross medals of significance. The amendments are outlined in the accompanying Explanatory Statement.

Australia is part of the international effort to protect and safeguard the world's cultural heritage, guided by the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.

Australia is also committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development though strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world's cultural heritage.

If you buy cultural material in Australia or from overseas, you need to ensure that any import/export is compliant with relevant cultural property laws. For more information, please refer to the fact sheet on this page.