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|Australia has been a world leader in developing legislation for the protection of shipwrecks.
Shipwrecks in Australian waters are protected by three important federal acts:
TheUnderwater Cultural Heritage Act (2018) (Commonwealth) Historic Shipwreck Act (1976) (Commonwealth), and the Customs Act 1901.
In addition States have additional legislation covering internal waters. In the State of Victoria historic shipwreck protection falls under the Heritage Act 1995 and includes the Heritage (Historic Shipwrecks) (General) Regulations 1996.
There are two categories of protection under both the Commonwealth Historic Shipwreck Act and the Victorian State Heritage Act. The two categories are 'Historic Shipwreck' and 'Protected Zone'.
The MAAV encourage interested readers to read in detail the relevant Acts:
The Acts, Commonwealth and Victorian parallel each other to a large degree however there are some regulations in the Heritage Act 1995 (Victoria) that are unique to Victoria. The following points 'outline briefly' some of the regulations under the acts which persons involved in Victorian shipwrecks should be aware of.
The following is taken in part from the Heritage Act 1995 (Victoria) and as such is incomplete.
Victorian Heritage Register
The Heritage Council, after considering the recommendation of the Executive Director concerning the cultural heritage significance of a ship or article may determine that the remains of a ship and or article/s are to be included in the Heritage Register as a historic shipwreck.
All historic shipwrecks, protected zones and historic shipwreck relics in Victorian State and Commonwealth waters are recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register.
Are you unsure of a shipwrecks historic status then check out the Victorian Heritage Register
All shipwrecks of a certain age historic
An area not exceeding 100 hectares consisting of land or water or both within which a historic shipwreck or historic shipwreck relic is situated may be deemed a protected zone.
Notice of location of historic shipwrecks and historic shipwreck relics
If a person obtains possession of an article which is or becomes a historic shipwreck or historic shipwreck relic, the person must notify the suitable authorities in writing of the article's description and location within 7 days of obtaining possession of the article.
Prohibition of certain activities in relation to historic shipwrecks and historic shipwreck relics
A person must not, without lawful authority:
Offence to be near historic shipwrecks with certain equipment
A person must not, without authority or reasonable cause, possess on or near a historic shipwreck or historic shipwreck relic:
Permits for exploration or recovery of historic shipwrecks and historic shipwreck relics
A person may apply to the Executive Director for a permit authorising that person and any other persons named or described in the permit to do an act or thing which would otherwise be prohibited under sections of the Act or the shipwrecks regulations.
Discovery of shipwrecks and articles to be notified
A person who finds the remains of a ship, or of part of a ship, or an article associated with a ship must within 7 days give to the Executive Director a notice in writing setting out: