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 our movable cultural heritage, which forms an important part of our identity.

Items of 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 to the country of origin of foreign cultural property which has been illegally imported into Australia.

Australia's Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 is supported by legislation which was updated in December 2018. The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 2018 were revised to implement some of the recommendations and principles of the Review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act by Shane Simpson AM. The Explanatory Statement contains information on the changes to the previous regulations from 1987.

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 your purchase is compliant with relevant cultural property laws. For more information, please refer to 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.