New, stricter protections for Australia’s underwater cultural heritage

The Australian Government has raised the level of protection of historic shipwrecks, submerged aircraft and other relics with Wednesday night’s passage of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 through the House of Representatives.

Australia currently protect about 7,500 historic shipwrecks, 500,000 associated relics and their environments in Australian waters under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 extends the protections now in place for historic shipwrecks to other wrecks such as submerged aircraft. It also specifically recognises the human remains associated with these sites.

The bill increases the penalties that can be applied if wreck sites and relics are damaged or plundered. It provides for a wider, flexible range of regulatory options, such as enforceable undertakings and infringement notices. It also allows Australia, in consultation with affected countries, to better protect its underwater cultural heritage, even if located outside Australian waters.



Published since 1978, Ausmarine is the foremost magazine servicing the Australian and New Zealand commercial, military and government marine sectors.