Importing cultural material from foreign countries into Australia must comply with the laws of the foreign country and Australia.

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

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

Documents

This factsheet tells you what you need to consider when you decide to buy a cultural object.