Wednesday, April 24, 2024

WA floats new protections for historic shipwrecks

Historic shipwrecks and other maritime archaeological sites will be better protected under proposed changes to the 50-year-old Maritime Archaeology Act 1973 (WA), Culture and the Arts Minister, David Templeman said today.

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

“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,” said Minister Templeman.

“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.”

The WA Museum has proposed 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 until 12 May 2023. Interested parties are encouraged to submit their views and feedback via the online consultation capturing tool.

Further information and details about the consultation and access to the online consultation capturing tool can be found at

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