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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

3 August 2001

National Approach to Saving Our Underwater Heritage


An intriguing part of Australia's cultural heritage lies hidden beneath our seas or clings to the edge of the continent - this is our maritime heritage.

Federal Environment and Heritage Minister Robert Hill today announced the Commonwealth Government would look at updating its legislation and developing a new national strategy for protecting this important maritime heritage.

Senator Hill said the Commonwealth's Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 provides protection only for shipwrecks and associated relics. Under the new plan, work would begin on developing a new nation-wide strategy for Australia's underwater heritage that incorporates not only shipwrecks, but also the other important aspects of our maritime heritage.

"It is now time to review this Act, in consultation with State and Territory governments," Senator Hill said.

"It is time we took a truly national look at how we can best protect the shipwrecks, lighthouses, jetties, slipways and coastal fortifications which are a special part of Australia's heritage."

The development of an Australian maritime heritage strategy would examine the potential for broadening the scope of our national legislation to protect both underwater and land-based maritime heritage.

"A maritime heritage strategy could also highlight places for consideration for entry in the proposed National Heritage List which is part of legislative changes to heritage listing currently being considered by Federal Parliament," Senator Hill said.

"The proposed new National Heritage List would give Commonwealth-listed sites important protection for the first time - the existing Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 provides no substantive protection for any heritage place. It does not contain any provisions requiring management plans to be prepared and it does not contain any penalties for damaging heritage places."

Senator Hill said the aim would be to have the strategy agreed and ready for implementation in 2002-2003.

August 3, 2001
Media Contact: Belinda Huppatz 08 8237 7920 or 0419 258364

Commonwealth of Australia