Legislation, standards & forms

Australian Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material

This guide produced in 2015 by the then Australian Government’s Ministry for the Arts now Office for the Arts describes the ethical and legal issues that public museums, galleries and libraries need to consider when they acquire or borrow cultural material. The material was developed in reference to materials produced by several peak bodies including AMAGA (then Museums Australia) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) – Code of Ethics (2004). The material is a guide only and no substitute for an institution’s Collections / Acquisitions Policy. Legislation referenced in the guide may have been superseded since its publication.

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Collections Law: Legal Issues for Australian Archives, Galleries, Libraries & Museums

This online publication, authored by Shane Simpson, and several other well known museum industry people focuses on the subject of the business and law of public collecting organisations in Australia. It is intended that it be a suitable reference guide for public museums, libraries, archives and galleries in Australia.

This website and its material are only a summary of the subject matter covered and are no substitute for legal or professional advice relevant to particular circumstances.

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Australian Government ComLaw

The Federal Register of Legislation (the Legislation Register) is the authorised whole-of-government website for Commonwealth legislation and related documents. It contains the full text and details of the lifecycle of individual laws and the relationships between them.The Legislation Register is managed by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in accordance with the Legislation Act 2003.

Here are some relevant pieces of legislation for Australasian Registrars Committee members:

Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986  protects Australia’s movable cultural heritage and provides for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from its country of origin and imported into Australia. It gives effect to Australia’s agreement to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.

If you buy cultural material in Australia or from overseas, you need to do your research before buying to ensure your purchase is compliant with relevant cultural property laws.

View the Act.

Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013

An Act to encourage the loan of objects from overseas for temporary public exhibition in Australia, and for related purposes.

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Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Institutions must comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to ensure Australia meets its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 1975 (CITES Convention). The EPBC Act establishes a permit system to allow the import and export of specimens listed by the CITES Convention, including for non-commercial purposes. It also provides the framework for domestic measures regulating trade in particular species, which is stricter than that required by the CITES Convention. Institutions should not acquire or borrow objects or material made of, or including parts or derivatives of, flora and fauna included in any appendix to the CITES Convention if the object or material has been traded without appropriate permits or in contravention of the Convention.

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Collections Trust

The Collections Trust is the professional association for collections management. Established in 1977, it is a UK-based charity that works worldwide with museums, libraries, galleries and archives to improve the management and use of their collections. It does this by providing know-how, developing and promoting excellence, challenging existing practices, pioneering new ideas and bringing experts together.

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New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata

The New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata (PCO) is responsible for drafting and publishing most of New Zealand’s legislation. The PCO is New Zealand’s law drafting office. It is responsible for drafting New Zealand Government Bills (except Inland Revenue Bills) and Legislative Instruments and publishing all New Zealand Bills, Acts, and Legislative Instruments, both in hard copy and online on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Here are some relevant pieces of legislation for Australasian Registrars Committee members:

Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008

The Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act (2008) amended the Copyright Act 1994 to bring the law into step with technological advances. The new legislation provides a more technology-neutral framework for existing copyright law and introduces some new copyright concepts. View the Act

Arms Legislation Act 2020 and Arms Act 1983

The Arms Legislation Act (2020) amends the Arms Act 1983 requiring New Zealand museums to hold a ‘Dealer’s licence’ to collect, hold and display arms. Links to the 2021 NZ Police Q&A sheet and YouTube zui (recording duration 56 mins approx.) related the changes can be found on the Museums Aotearoa webpage here

View the Arms Legislation Act 2020

View the Arms Act 1983

Protected Objects Act 1975

The Protected Objects Act (1975) previously known as the Antiquities Act came into force in 2006. The Act regulates the export of protected New Zealand objects; the illegal export and import of protected New Zealand and foreign objects; the sale, trade and ownership of taonga tūturu, including what to do if you find a taonga or Māori artefact. Schedule Four of the Act lists the categories of protected objects covered. The Act also incorporates the UNESCO Convention 1970 and the UNIDROIT Convention.

View the Protected Objects Act


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