Exporting cultural property from Australia

Australian cultural property forms an important part of Australia's heritage and national identity. Objects may be considered Australian cultural property for ethnological, historical, literary, artistic, scientific or technological reasons. Cultural property may include Indigenous art, heritage machinery, precious stones, historical documents, furniture, stamps and a variety of other objects.

Cultural objects which are Australian protected objects cannot be exported if they are of such significance that their export would significantly diminish the cultural heritage of Australia. The significance of an object is determined based on factors such as age, value, rarity, representation in public collections and national significance. All Australian protected objects cannot be exported without an export permit. The National Cultural Heritage Control List establishes the criteria for Australian protected objects under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (PMCH Act).

Australian protected objects

The National Cultural Heritage Control List includes two classes of Australian protected objects :

  • Class A objects that cannot be exported. This class of objects includes Indigenous human remains and secret sacred objects, Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian recipients and any part of Ned Kelly's armour.
  • Class B objects that can only be exported from Australia with a valid export permit granted under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

The Australian Movable Cultural Heritage Prohibited Exports Register lists specific protected objects that have been denied export Permits and cannot be exported from Australia.

Are you aware that penalties apply for exporting Australian cultural heritage objects without an export permit?

Breaches of the PMCH Act can result in substantial penalties, including seizure of objects, fines of up to $200,000 or imprisonment for up to five years.

Permits, general permits and certificates of exemption

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, that then makes a recommendation to the Minister for the Arts about the granting of an export permit.
  • The Minister makes the final decision as to whether an export permit will be granted. The Minister may impose conditions on a permit, such as a time limit for the temporary export of the object.

To apply for a permit, please fill out the application form below.

You will receive notification if a permit is not required. You may provide this notification to Australian authorities at the time of export.

Forward all completed forms to the contact details at Movable Cultural Heritage.

Export permits for fossils and meteorites

Assessing export permit applications for fossils and meteorites is subject to a separate assessment process as outlined below.

General permits

Under section 10A of the PMCH Act, an institution may apply in writing to the Minister for the Arts for a general permit. A general permit allows the institution to temporarily export Class B objects from the collections. The Minister makes the final decision to grant the general permit.

Holders of general permits must report to the department annually on permit-related activities during the financial year. The following template should be used for reporting.

Reports are due by the end of July for the previous financial year.

Forward all completed forms to the contact details at Movable Cultural Heritage.

Certificate of exemption

A certificate of exemption allows Class A and Class B Australian protected objects, that are currently held overseas, to be imported into Australia and subsequently re-exported without the need for an export permit.

A certificate of exemption provides security under section 12 of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 PMCH Act that the object can be re-exported without an export permit.

Forward all completed forms to the contact details at Movable Cultural Heritage.

For information regarding legal protection for cultural objects on loan from overseas lenders for temporary public exhibition in Australia please refer to Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan.