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 Examples include Indigenous art, heritage machinery, precious stones, historical documents, furniture, and stamps.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 Act (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:
- The National Cultural Heritage Control List contains the criteria for Australian protected objects under the PMCH Act. If your material fits into at least one of the prescribed categories, you will need to apply for an export permit.
- Movable cultural heritage prohibited exports register lists specific material that has been denied export permits. This material cannot leave Australia.
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:
- Applications are referred to one or more expert examiners for assessment.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
To apply for a permit, submit an application using the Department’s online application portal:
If you experience difficulties using the online application form, please contact the Cultural Property team on 1800 819 461 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
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.
Principal collecting institutions (i.e. public galleries, museums, libraries, and archives that are established under a law of the Commonwealth, a state or territory) may apply for a General Permit under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 to assist in the temporary export of Class B Australian Protected Objects (APOs) that have been accessioned into their collection.
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.
Variations to permits and certificates
Use the form below to apply to vary the conditions of an existing Permit to Export a Class B Object or a Certificate of Exemption.
To acquit an existing Permit to Export a Class B Object or a Certificate of Exemption, fill out the acquittal forms below following the import and export of the object from Australia and email your completed forms to us.
- Import Acquittal for Permits and Certificates of Exemption
- Export Acquittal for Permits and Certificates of Exemption
Cultural Property Section
Office for the Arts
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts
GPO Box 2154
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 1800 819 461