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WA reviewing Maritime Archaeology Act 1973

Media Statement: Consultation to improve the protection of shipwrecks in WA waters, Government of Western Australia, 11 April 2023


  • Proposed changes to the State’s 50-year-old Maritime Archaeology Act 1973 (WA) will meet WA’s commitments under Australian law and international conventions
  • The consultations are crucial to contribute benefits, concerns, and opportunities for increased collaboration in protecting Western Australia’s maritime heritage
  • Significant changes to the current legislation are being proposed in the review

Historic shipwrecks and other maritime archaeological sites stand to be better protected under the proposed changes to the 50-year-old Maritime Archaeology Act 1973 (WA).

The Western Australian Museum (WA Museum) is reviewing the Maritime Archaeology Act 1973 (WA) to ensure WA meets its commitments under Australian law and international developments, and that all WA maritime archaeological sites and associated material receive adequate protection.

The WA Museum is proposing significant changes to the current legislation and is launching a public consultation today to seek feedback from interested parties.

The consultation will consider the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other stakeholders with a significant interest in protecting and managing the State’s maritime heritage. As well as local, State and Commonwealth Government agencies.

During the consultation period, the WA Museum will seek feedback on a range of proposed changes, including:

  • Alignment with the Commonwealth Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 and legislation in other State and Territory jurisdictions for shipwrecks that occurred later than 1900;
  • Automatically protecting archaeological remains of submerged maritime infrastructure that have been abandoned for more than 75 years;
  • Automatically protecting sunken aircraft and other sunken vehicles over 75 years old;
  • Protection for historic maritime resource industry sites older than 75 years;
  • Levels of fines and other penalties to reflect current infringements and practices;
  • Allow the issuing of permits to disturb maritime archaeological sites according to approved conditions being met;
  • Removal of vesting provisions and replacing them with options of lodging a memorial or creating a reserve;
  • Alignment with modern/current definitions of State Coastal, Commonwealth, Australian and inland waters; and
  • Establishment of a register of maritime archaeological sites protected by the 75-year rolling date, or if younger, by Ministerial declaration.

The consultation will run from 3 April to 12 May 2023. Interested parties are encouraged to submit their views and feedback via the online consultation capturing tool.

The WA Museum is providing a range of options to help people better understand the proposed changes before submitting their views and feedback, including factsheets, a video and a webinar.

Further information and details about the consultation and access to the online consultation capturing tool can be found at https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/maritime-archaeology-act-review

Comments attributed to Culture and the Arts Minister David Templeman:

“Western Australia’s treacherous coastline is home to many land and sea maritime archaeological sites that need to be appropriately protected now and into the future.

“We know this legislation has far-reaching implications and want to ensure we capture as many voices in our consultation as possible.

“It is through effective consultation and outlining the benefits, concerns and opportunities that we will be able to increase collaboration in the protection of WA’s maritime heritage.”

Minister’s office – 6552 5400 

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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