You might need a permit to export some cultural material from foreign countries. Some material including art works and historical artefacts such as antiquities and natural objects such as fossils and skeletal remains—are protected by cultural property laws and may be prohibited from export or require a permit prior to export from the foreign country.

Evidence of your compliance with foreign cultural property laws may be requested by the Australian Border Force at the border. If you don’t have a permit, the material could be seized, and you may be fined or imprisoned. Any material that is seized may be returned to its country of origin.

Your responsibilities when buying cultural property

If you buy cultural property overseas you are responsible for ensuring your purchase is compliant with the laws of that country. If you purchase objects illegally you are participating in the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

It is important to do your research, by checking what is required under the cultural property laws of the foreign country, and establishing the provenance of the object by checking the documents relating to its history.

Read the buying legally factsheet to find out more.

Importing Australian protected objects

Class A and Class B Australian protected objects that are in overseas collections need a certificate of exemption to be imported temporarily to Australia, and then re-exported.

Find out more: Exporting cultural property from Australia.


Cultural Property Section
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts
GPO Box 2154
Canberra ACT 2601


Phone: 1800 819 461



Buying legally—making sure it's above board

Published 1st Aug 2022

PDF: Buying Legally—Making Sure It’s Above Board—August 2022 (422.84 KB) 

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Before buying cultural property do your research. Buying legally is your way to make sure it’s above board. This fact sheet tells you what you need to consider when you decide to buy a cultural object.


  • The page lists examples of cultural property returned by the Australian Government to foreign countries under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.