Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008
Legislation annual reports 2007-08 (continued)
Operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986
This annual report is prepared in accordance with section 47 of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 and covers the operation of the Act from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.
The Act regulates the export of cultural heritage objects from Australia. It protects, for the benefit of the nation, objects which, if exported, would significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage. The Act also includes provisions that allow Australia to respond to an official request by a foreign government to return objects that have been illegally exported in contravention of that country’s cultural heritage laws.
The Act defines certain heritage objects as ‘Australian protected objects’ and implements a system of export control. Some Australian protected objects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, military heritage and historical significance cannot be granted a permit to export. Others may be exported provided a permit or certificate has been obtained.
Permits are granted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts on the advice of the National Cultural Heritage Committee and expert examiners. Heritage objects located overseas may also be defined as Australian protected objects, and a certificate of exemption may be issued for such an object to enter Australia and return overseas without restriction.
The Act was passed as the necessary implementing legislation, prior to Australia’s accession on 30 January 1990 to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970).
National Cultural Heritage Control List
The National Cultural Heritage Control List sets out the categories of objects classed as Australian protected objects. The criteria (which define the categories) include historical association, cultural significance to Australia, representation in an Australian public collection, age and financial thresholds. The control list includes Class A and Class B objects.
Class A objects are significant Australian heritage objects that cannot normally be exported from Australia. They include:
- some of the most significant items of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage: bark and log coffins, human remains, rock art, dendroglyphs (carved burial and initiation trees), and sacred and secret ritual objects
- Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian recipients
- objects comprising the suit of armour worn by Ned Kelly at the event known as the siege of Glenrowan in 1880.
If a Class A object is not in Australia and a person wishes to temporarily import it, the minister may grant a certificate authorising its subsequent export.
Class B objects that may be exported subject to a permit include:
- archaeological objects
- objects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage not covered under Class A
- natural science objects
- objects of applied science or technology
- objects of fine or decorative art
- objects of documentary heritage
- numismatic objects and medals not covered under Class A
- philatelic objects
- objects of historical significance not covered under Class A.
The review of the Act continued in 2007–08.
The Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai and Minister Peter Garrett at the Chinese fossil hand back ceremony.
Photo: Mark Mohell
The department continued to work closely with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs Service to ensure the enforcement of, and compliance with, the Act. The department responded to 98 enquiries on a diverse range of objects being exported and imported, including heritage machinery, fossils and antiquities.
Objects illegally exported from another country in contravention of the cultural heritage laws of that country, and imported into Australia, may be subject to seizure and forfeiture to the Commonwealth for return to the requesting government.
In 2007–08 the department liaised with foreign countries on cases involving such objects as fossils from China and Argentina, a 15th century map from Spain, and antiquities from Nepal.
In August 2007 the Australian Government returned to the Government of Argentina 130 kilograms of fossils illegally exported from Argentina. They included a large Titanosaurus dinosaur egg, numerous dinosaur egg pieces and fragments, a dinosaur vertebra, and plant specimens, including Araucaria conifer cones, seeds and petrified wood.
His Excellency Mr Antonio Cosano, Ambassador of Spain and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Byrne MP at the return of the map.
Photo: Mark Mohell
In January 2008 the Australian Government handed back to the People’s Republic of China over 750 kilograms of Chinese fossils illegally exported from China. The fossils span different geological ages and past environments of ancient China. The oldest include trilobites and ammonoids from the middle of the Palaeozoic Era (450–350 million years ago); the youngest include teeth, jaw and skulls from mammals of the Pliocene Period (circa 5 million years ago). Most came from the ‘age of dinosaurs’, the Mesozoic Era (251–65 million years ago). These include complete skeletons of the Triassic marine reptile Keichousaurus (a relative of the great long-necked plesiosaurs) and a wide range of dinosaur eggs and bones from the Cretaceous Period (140–65 million years ago).
On 4 February 2008 the Australian Government returned a rare 15th century Ulm Ptolemy Map of the world, stolen from the National Library of Spain, to the Spanish Government. The Ptolemy world map, one of the most beautiful and most reproduced world maps, was printed for the 1482 edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, considered one of the most important atlases of the 15th century. The map was one of 18 rare documents reported stolen in August 2007 from the National Library of Spain. The Australian Federal Police supported the department in its detection and recovery. The map was returned at a function in the National Library of Australia, attended by dignitaries including the Ambassador of Spain, His Excellency Mr Antonio Cosano, the Director of the National Library of Spain, Mrs Milagros del Corral and members of the Spanish Guardia Civil.
The National Cultural Heritage Account was established under section 25 of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Amendment Act 1999 and in accordance with the regulatory requirements of the Commonwealth Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. Its purpose is to facilitate the acquisition of Australian protected objects for display or safekeeping.
Funding of $500,000 was allocated in 2007–08 to maintain the National Cultural Heritage Account.
This year, following advice from the National Cultural Heritage Committee, the minister approved funding for the following Australian cultural organisations:
- State Library of Victoria, to acquire the Mark Strizic Photographic Collection. The collection comprises approximately 12,000 negatives. It includes portraits of leading Australian artists, architects and designers. The images illustrate the growth and urbanisation of Australia in the 1950s, and the development and expansion of Australia’s manufacturing industries.
- State Library of Western Australia, for the 11 Bussell Diaries, a family archive of early Western Australian settlers.
- Isis District Historical Society, for the 1898 Fowler Tank Steam Locomotive, the oldest known 0-6-0T locomotive still surviving with historical links to the Queensland sugar industry.
- Museum Victoria, for a daguerreotype of an Aboriginal group, part of a small series of images of local Aborigines of the Yarra Yarra tribe taken in Melbourne by Douglas Kilburn in 1847.
- Museum Victoria, for a 1930s tonic book belonging to Harry Telford, owner and trainer of the champion racehorse Phar Lap, which has provided a unique insight into the race horse industry of the time and one of the best known episodes of Australian sporting history.
A total of 163 export permit applications were finalised, which included the assessment of 4,961 objects (including 116 for letters of clearance). A summary of export applications processed in 2007–08 is at Appendix 1. The objects that were issued permanent and temporary export permits and certificates of exemption are described at Appendix 2.
Permits for permanent export
Permits were issued to permanently export 22 Australian protected objects. In general the exporters were seeking to sell the objects on the international market.
Permits for temporary export
Five permits were issued to allow the temporary export of five Australian protected objects for exhibition or assessment. Objects included a 1914 Hotchkiss fire engine and a Painting by Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri.
Letters of clearance
Letters of clearance may be issued for objects that have been assessed by expert examiners as not being Australian protected objects and therefore do not require an export permit under the Act. The letters are normally issued by the department to assist with the clearance of these objects through Customs.
A total of 116 letters of clearance were issued covering 4,882 objects.
Refusal of export permits
One object was refused an export permit.
Six applications were withdrawn.
Certificates of exemption
Thirteen certificates of exemption covering 25 objects were issued. The certificates allow Australian protected objects that are currently overseas to be imported into Australia and subsequently re-exported. Owners of Australian protected objects located overseas are encouraged to repatriate them to Australia for display or sale. Objects imported for exhibition allow the Australian public access to elements of their cultural heritage that would otherwise be unavailable.
The National Cultural Heritage Committee is appointed under the Act to advise the minister on the operation of the Act, the National Cultural Heritage Control List, and the National Cultural Heritage Account. Members serve terms of up to four years and are eligible for reappointment.
The Committee held two face-to-face meetings (30 November 2007 and 28 March 2008) to consider applications for export permits and for funding from the National Cultural Heritage Account. Committee business was also conducted out of session, including the consideration of export applications and funding applications and advice to the minister on the significance of collections under the Act.
Committee-related expenditure for 2007–08 was $20,624.82 which included sitting fees and travel and accommodation costs for attendance at meetings.
Register of Expert Examiners
The Register of Expert Examiners was maintained by the Committee in accordance with section 22 of the Act. The National Cultural Heritage Committee regularly invites individuals with appropriate expertise to be included on the register, to broaden the expert advice available to the Committee.
The expert examiners give the benefit of their wide experience and practical support throughout the year. Their specialist knowledge and advice in preparing reports for consideration by the Committee and the minister are vital in protecting Australia’s significant movable cultural heritage, as is the specialist advice they provide to the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Federal Police.
|Member||Date/term of appointment|
|Chair: Mr Craddock Morton, Director, National Museum of Australia||Appointed 9 March 2006 for 4 years|
|Professor Daryl Le Grew, Vice Chancellor, University of Tasmania||Appointed 27 March 2006 for 4 years|
|Mr Simon Molesworth AM QC, barrister-at-law, Victoria||Re-appointed 25 May 2006 for 4 years|
|Ms Deborah Tranter, Deputy Director, Cobb and Co Museum, Queensland||Appointed 12 July 2004 for 4 years|
|Ms Jennifer Sanders, Associate Director, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney||Re-appointed 12 July 2004 for 4 years|
|Dr Susan Marsden, historian, South Australia||Appointed 23 April 2004 for 4 years|
|Ms Kylie Winkworth, museum and heritage consultant, NSW||Re-appointed 31 July 2006 for 4 years|
|Ms Avril Quaill, Principal Project Officer, Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing and Export Agency||Re-appointed 31 July 2006 for 4 years|
|Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, CEO and State Librarian, State Library of Victoria||Appointed 9 May 2007 for 4 years|
|Mr Christopher Menz, Director Art Gallery of South Australia||Appointed 30 September 2007 for 4 years|
|Export applications||Number of applications||Number of objects|
|Applications brought forward as at 1 July 2007||19||1,957|
|Applications received during 2007–08||174||4,992|
|Active applications during 2007–08||193||6,949|
|Applications finalised during 2007–08||163||4,961|
|Applications carried over as at 30 June 2008||16||36|
|Outcomes of applications finalised||Number of outcomes||Number of objects|
|Permanent export permits issued||22||42|
|Temporary export permits issued||5||5|
|Conditional permits issued||Nil||Nil|
|Letters of clearance issued||116||4,882|
|Certificates of exemption issued||13||25|
|Permanent export permits – description||Finalised|
|Collection of stromatolites||10.08.2007|
|Painting,1972, Wallaby Dreaming Attributed to Charlie Eagle Tjapaltjarri||14.08.2007|
|Pair of carvings, 1962, by Mani Luki Wommatakimmi||12.10.2007|
|Carving, c1960, by Ben Tipungwuti||12.10.2007|
|Painting, 1971, by Charlie Numbulmoore||27.11.2007|
|Lethbridge Cricket Bat||18.12.2007|
|Carving, 1968, by unknown artist; Docker River||18.12.2007|
|Painting, Womens Story at Yalukuru, 1974||18.12.2007|
|Painting, Dingo Dreaming at Wandurankuntjana, 1986||18.12.2007|
|Bark painting, Groote Eylandt, unknown artist||18.12.2007|
|Carved ironwood by Paddy Henry (Teeampi) Ripijingimpi||18.12.2007|
|Painting by Paddy Jupurrula Nelson||18.12.2007|
|Tree trunk; inscribed||21.12.2007|
|French altar stone, c.1780s||21.12.2007|
|Painting, Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa, 1974||12.02.2008|
|Untitled Ceremonial Design, 1971, by Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri||05.02.2008|
|Painting, c1987, by George Mung Mung||08.04.2008|
|Painting by Anatjari Tjampitjinpa||07.07.2008|
|Steam traction engine no1236||08.05.2008|
|1919 Glasgow 3WD Tractor||16.05.2008|
|Temporary export permits – description||Finalised|
|1914 Hotchkiss fire engine no. 4393||20.12.2007|
|1914 Vauxhall motor vehicle ‘Fifty Bob’||08.01.2008|
|Elfin racing car||15.01.2008|
|Newmont Australia’s Nugget||23.01.2008|
|Painting by Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri||14.05.2008|
|Certificates of exemption – description||Finalised|
|pre 1880 Queensland Shield; pre 1880 Aboriginal bowls||09.08.2007|
|Papunya painting, 1976, Anatjari Tjakamarra||13.09.2007|
|Bark painting by Tipera-Bunga-Dila (Kerinua)||23.10.2007|
|Six photographs c1850||25.10.2007|
|Four Papunya Tula paintings||25.10.2007|
|1826 letter from Melville Island||16.01.2008|
|First Australian Rules Football Cup||15.02.2008|
|Painting by Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi||15.02.2008|
|Bark painting, c1950||02.05.2008|
|Bark painting, c1950||02.05.2008|
|Bark painting by Mawalan Marika||07.04.2008|
|19th Century Torres Strait Island headdress mask||24.04.2008|
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