Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018

On 24 August 2018 the Australian Parliament passed the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 (UCH Act). The UCH Act came into effect on 1 July 2019, replacing the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (Historic Shipwrecks Act).

The UCH Act continues the protection of Australia’s shipwrecks, and has broadened protection to sunken aircraft and other types of underwater cultural heritage including Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Underwater Cultural Heritage in Commonwealth waters.

The UCH Act also continues much of the successful policy framework established under the Historic Shipwrecks Act and implements the recommendations from the public Review of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 and consideration of the requirements arising from the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (the UNESCO 2001 Convention).

The UCH Act gives clarity to the present and ongoing jurisdictional arrangements for protecting and managing Australia’s underwater cultural heritage in line with the 2010 Australian Underwater Cultural Heritage Intergovernmental Agreement.