A permit is needed to take significant cultural material out of Australia. We regulate the export of cultural material under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

Australian cultural material is an important part of Australia's heritage and national identity. We protect Australia’s unique cultural heritage from leaving the country and being lost to future generations of Australians.

Cultural material may be considered significant for ethnological, historical, literary, artistic, scientific or technological reasons. Examples include Indigenous art, heritage machinery, precious stones, historical documents, furniture, and stamps.

The significance of an object is based on its age, value, rarity, representation in public collections and significance.

We regulate the export of Australia’s cultural material under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (PMCH Act). The aim is not to restrict normal and legitimate trade in this material, nor does it affect your right to own or sell it within Australia.

Australian protected objects

Objects regulated under the PMCH Act are known as Australian protected objects.

If you are unsure if material is considered an Australian protected object, there are two lists that you can consult:

If you try to export an Australian protected object without an export permit, you could have the object seized, be fined, or face jail time.

Freight companies could also be prosecuted if they export an Australian protected object even if their only role is transporting the material. Freight companies should confirm that the owner either has a permit or is satisfied that they do not need one.

Permits, general permits and certificates of exemption

You should apply for an export permit if you want to permanently or temporarily export significant cultural heritage material from Australia.

Permanent and temporary export permits

The export permit application process involves three steps:

  1. Applications are referred to one or more expert examiners for assessment.
  2. Applications and assessments are considered by the National Cultural Heritage Committee, which then makes a recommendation to the Minister for the Arts, or their delegate.
  3. The Minister, or their delegate, makes the final decision about granting an export permit which can include conditions, such as a time limit for the temporary export of the object.

An application for export permit can have three possible outcomes:

  1. The material is not an Australian protected object, therefore the PMCH Act does not apply to the material and you will not need an export permit.
  2. The material meets the criteria to be an Australian protected object and its export would not significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage and you will be issued an export permit.
  3. The material meets the criteria to be an Australian protected object and its export would significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage and you will be denied an export permit.

To apply for a permit, fill out this application form and email your completed form to us.

The process can take many months and you should factor this into any commitments you make when buying or selling. You can give the notice or the permit to Australian authorities when you export the object.

Export permits for fossils and meteorites

There is a separate assessment for exporting fossils and meteorites. It involves a Preliminary assessment of fossils and meteorites.

General permits

We may grant a general permit to a Commonwealth, state or territory institution. A general permit allows an institution to temporarily export Class B objects from its collections without applying for individual permits and external assessments. Institutions with a general permit must report their permit-related activities to the department by the end of July for the previous financial year.

Use these templates for reporting and email your completed forms to us.

Certificate of exemption

Class A and Class B Australian protected objects that are in overseas collections can be brought into Australia, but they need a certificate of exemption before they arrive in Australia. This will mean that you will not need an export permit when the object subsequently leaves Australia.

Use the application form below to apply for an exemption and email your completed form to us.

Contacts

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

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