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.

Cultural material is an important part of a nation's identity. It includes artworks and historical, archaeological, numismatic, philatelic, science or technology objects.

Trade and exchange of cultural material enhances our appreciation of cultural diversity; it can also affect a nation's cultural heritage.

For this reason, there are laws to protect significant cultural objects. The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 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 and supports Australia's contribution 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 do your research before buying to ensure your purchase is compliant with relevant cultural property laws. For more information, please see the fact-sheet.


Cultural Property Section
Department of Communications and the Arts
GPO Box 2154
Canberra ACT 2601

Email: movable.heritage [at]
Phone: 1800 819 461

Protecting movable cultural heritage fact-sheet


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In Australia, national and foreign cultural heritage is protected by our laws. Australian cultural property objects are significant to the nation’s identity. It is important all cultural heritage items are imported and exported legally.