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


28 March 1999

Sunken treasures dating back hundreds of years will be better conserved and more widely appreciated under the Federal Government's Historic Shipwreck Program.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Robert Hill announced $408,000 had been set aside during the 1998-99 financial year.

"Australia has some of the world's most significant maritime heritage with more than 6000 shipwrecks spanning four centuries," Senator Hill said.

"The Commonwealth is committed to protecting these underwater treasures and to ensure Australians are better informed about their history."

"One major project is the conservation of artefacts from the 18th century wreck of the HMS Pandora, the vessel sent to the South Pacific to recapture the Bounty mutineers. The Queensland Museum will receive funding towards its excavation which promises to be one of Australia's most significant maritime archaeological investigations," Senator Hill said.

"Other projects include surveys of recently discovered wrecks such as the SS Tasman found off Tasmania, and the 1841 wreck of the French vessel Perseverant found on Western Australia's Dirk Hartog Island."

For those unable to get close to the actual sites, exploration will also be increasingly available via the internet.

"There will be continuing updates on wrecks through the National Shipwrecks Internet Database," Senator Hill said.

"Also coming on-line is an Internet site exploring the waters around Macquarie Island and its 12 shipwrecks, including the Antarctic explorer Nella Dan which ran aground in 1987."

As well as conserving items of heritage, Senator Hill said the Historic Shipwrecks program had major benefits for tourism.

"A range of projects are designed to improve public appreciation of Australia's maritime heritage. These include land based interpretive tracks pointing to wrecks off the coast and similar trails for divers at sea."

Historic shipwrecks in Australian waters have Commonwealth Government protection under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, which aims to protect maritime archaeological sites while encouraging public access to them. The Act prohibits damage, interference, or removal of an historic shipwreck or associated relics.

A list of the grants under the Historic Shipwrecks Program for 1998-99 is attached.

Media Contacts:
Rod Bruem, Senator Hill's Office (02) 6277 7640
Peter Mitchell Historic, Shipwrecks Program (02) 6274 2148

Commonwealth of Australia