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Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2005–06

Volume two
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006
ISSN 1441 9335

Legislation annual reports 2005-06 (continued)

Operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

This annual report is prepared in accordance with section 47 of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 and covers the operation of the Act from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.

Purpose of the Act

The Act regulates the export of cultural heritage objects from Australia. The purpose of the Act is to protect, for the benefit of the nation, objects which if exported would significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage. The Act also includes provisions that allow Australia to respond to an official request by a foreign government to return objects that have been illegally exported in contravention of their cultural heritage laws.

The Act defines certain heritage objects as ‘Australian protected objects’ and implements a system of export control. Some Australian protected objects of Aboriginal, military heritage and historical significance cannot be granted a permit for export. Other Australian protected objects may be exported provided a permit or certificate has been obtained. Permits are granted by the responsible minister, on the advice of the National Cultural Heritage Committee and expert examiners. Heritage objects located overseas may also be defined as Australian protected objects under the Act, and a certificate of exemption may be issued for such an Australian protected object to enter Australia and return overseas without restriction.

The UNESCO Convention

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 was passed as the necessary implementing legislation prior to Australia’s accession on 30 January 1990 to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970).

National Cultural Heritage Control List

The National Cultural Heritage Control List sets out the categories of objects classed as Australian protected objects and the criteria defining each of these categories. These criteria include historical association, cultural significance to Australia, representation in an Australian public collection, age and financial thresholds. The control list includes Class A and Class B objects.

Class A objects are significant Australian heritage objects that cannot normally be exported from Australia. They include:

If a Class A object is not in Australia and a person wishes to temporarily import the object, the minister may grant a certificate authorising the subsequent export of the object.

Class B objects which may be exported subject to a permit include:

Review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, Regulations and administration

The review of the Act is continuing with an assessment of sections which might be amended to simplify the control list and the threshold criteria for ‘Australian protected objects’. Key stakeholders will be consulted during 2006-07.


The department continues to work closely with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs Service to ensure the enforcement of, and compliance with, the Act. Enquiries were undertaken in respect of a wide range of objects being exported and imported including heritage machinery, fossils and antiquities. The department also assisted members of the public and businesses with enquiries about export permit requirements.

Illegal imports

Objects illegally exported from another country in contravention of the cultural heritage laws of that country, and imported into Australia, may be subject to seizure and forfeiture to the Commonwealth for return to the requesting government. In 2005–06 the department liaised with a number of foreign countries on cases involving objects such as aircraft relics, fossils and Egyptian artefacts.

Over 10 000 pieces (approximately 10 tonnes) of illegally imported Chinese fossils were returned to the People’s Republic of China at a ceremony in Perth on 30 September 2005. The fossils were seized in multiple operations by the Australian Federal Police across Australia on the request of the Department of the Environment and Heritage.

Recovered ancient Egyptian funerary objects.

Recovered ancient Egyptian funerary objects. Photo: Mark Mohell

Seven illegally imported ancient Egyptian funerary objects recovered under the Act were returned to the Egyptian Government on 19 July 2005. Following further repatriation requests from the Egyptian Government, more objects were seized in Sydney and Melbourne with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police. Investigation into the objects seized is continuing.

Two containers of imported Japanese and New Zealand World War II aircraft relics, impounded upon arrival in Melbourne in June 2005, were released to the importer by Customs in early May 2006 following legal proceedings in Papua New Guinea.

National Cultural Heritage Account

The National Cultural Heritage Account was established under section 25 of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Amendment Act 1999 and in accordance with the regulatory requirements of the Commonwealth Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. Its purpose is to facilitate the acquisition of Australian protected objects for display or safekeeping.

Funding of $500 000 was allocated at Additional Estimates in 2005–06 to maintain the National Cultural Heritage Account at $0.5 million.

This year, following advice from the National Cultural Heritage Committee, the minister approved funding for Australian cultural organisations to acquire the following objects:

Export permit applications

A total of 91 applications were finalised which included the assessment of 1 970 objects (including 49 requests for letters of clearance) during 2005–06. A summary of export applications processed in 2005–06 is at Appendix 1. The objects that were issued permanent and temporary export permits and certificates of exemption are described at Appendix 2.

There were two applications covering two objects under consideration at 1 July 2005 and six applications covering six objects under consideration at 30 June 2006.

Permits for permanent export (including conditional permits)

Permits were issued to export permanently 19 Australian protected objects. Conditional permits for the export of three Kelly & Lewis Stationery Motors were issued. The permits require the exporter to notify the department of the shipping details to enable an inspection before export. In general, the exporters were seeking to either sell the objects on the international market or to exchange the objects with overseas collectors.

Permits for temporary export

Nine permits were issued to allow the temporary export of 92 Australian protected objects for exhibition or assessment. Objects included:

Letters of clearance

Letters of clearance may be issued for objects that have been assessed by expert examiners as not being Australian Protected Objects, and therefore do not require an export permit under the Act. Letters of clearance are normally issued by the department to assist with the clearance of these objects through Customs.

In 2005–06 a total of 49 letters of clearance were issued covering a total of 1 857 objects.

Refusal of export permits

Five objects were refused an export permit during 2005–06.

Two Gulmari shields were refused an export permit on 17 August 2005. These Aboriginal shields were manufactured in south central Queensland in the 1880s. Each shield has unique features including individual artisan skills, the use of local materials including woods and ochres, and individual designs. These shields define the maker’s totemic group identification or clan affiliations and relationship to country at a particular time in history. Artefacts from central, eastern, and south-eastern Queensland are severely under-represented in Australian collections, and documented shields from these areas are particularly rare.

There are few shields in Australian public collections that were acquired prior to 1900. The shields are also of exceptional cultural and educational value as there is a documented provenance to John Colburn Mayne, who had a known association with the Queensland locality at ‘Kincombe’.

An 1887 McLaren 8HP steam traction engine was refused an export permit on 11 November 2005. This traction engine is the oldest known McLaren traction engine in Australia and was one of the first four general purpose traction engines imported into Australia by McLaren’s. The traction engine displays rare technical design features and is the only known surviving example in Australia of McLaren’s innovative patent spring wheels. The engine has important associations with the development of the pastoral industry and was displayed at the Melbourne Show of the National Agricultural Society of Victoria and possibly also at the Melbourne International Centennial Exhibition.

The department provided $60 000 from the National Cultural Heritage Account to the Australian National University School of Art to assist with the acquisition of this Ronisch concert grand piano.

The department provided $60 000 from the National Cultural Heritage Account to the Australian National University School of Art to assist with the acquisition of this Ronisch concert grand piano. Photo: John Crowley

A c.1880 Ronisch concert grand piano was refused a permit on 22 November 2005. The piano is likely to be the only one of its kind in Australia, and to have been commissioned by the Melbourne music retailers Nicholson & Co, and used in recitals at the Nicholson & Co Music Emporium in Collins Street, Melbourne to promote the company and to encourage sales of pianos.

The piano was identified as being of outstanding cultural heritage significance to Australia, and significant for its rarity and the aesthetic value of its design and workmanship. It is a link to the cultural aspirations of an increasingly affluent Australia in the late 19th century, and an example of late 19th century German piano manufacture and its influence on Australia at the time.

A permit was refused for a c.1898 Fowler tank steam locomotive on 21 June 2006. The Fowler tank steam locomotive is the oldest known 0-6-0T locomotive still surviving with historical links to the Queensland sugar industry and one of Australia’s major corporations, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The object’s link to the sugar industry is significant because that industry played a key role in Australia’s economic, social and cultural development. It has contributed to export earnings, facilitated the spread of settlement, employed many migrant workers and been a part of major industrial actions. The industry was featured in Australian literature, including Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1957) and Jean Devanny’s novel Sugar Doll (1936).

The provenance of the locomotive is well documented. The locomotive was imported by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for use in the Childers sugar mill to haul sugar cane. In 1932 the Childers mill closed down and the locomotive was purchased by the Isis Central Mill Company. There are seven John Fowler narrow gauge 0-6-0T locomotives remaining in Australia, none of which are in public collections.

Applications withdrawn

Four applications were withdrawn in the year under review.

Certificates of exemption

Seven certificates of exemption covering 17 objects were issued this year. Certificates of exemption allow Australian protected objects that are currently overseas to be imported into Australia and subsequently re-exported. Owners of Australian protected objects located overseas are encouraged to repatriate them to Australia for display or sale. Objects imported for exhibition allow the Australian public access to elements of their cultural heritage that would otherwise be unavailable.

National Cultural Heritage Committee

The Act provides for the minister to appoint the National Cultural Heritage Committee. The committee is responsible for advising the minister on permit applications and on the administration of the Act, including the National Cultural Heritage Control List, the Register of Expert Examiners, and the National Cultural Heritage Account.

Table 1: Membership of the National Cultural Heritage Committee in 2005–06
Member Date/term of appointment
Mr Craddock Morton, Director, National Museum of Australia (Chair) Appointed 9 March 2006
Professor Daryl Le Grew, Vice Chancellor, University of Tasmania, representative of the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee Appointed 27 March 2006
Mr Simon Molesworth AM QC, barrister-at-law, Victoria Re-appointed for 4 years from 25 May 2006
Professor Kenneth McNamara, Senior Curator, Invertebrate Paleontology, Western Australian Museum Re-appointed for 2 years from 9 March 2006
Ms Deborah Tranter, Deputy Director, Cobb and Co Museum, Queensland Member until 12 July 2008
Ms Jennifer Sanders, Associate Director, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Member until 12 July 2008
Dr Susan Marsden, historian, South Australia Member until 23 April 2008
Ms Kylie Winkworth, museum and heritage consultant, NSW Member until 13 August 2006
Ms Avril Quaill, Principal Project Officer, Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing and Export Agency Member until 1 October 2006
Mr Bill Bleathman, Director, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Member until 25 February 2007
Dr Philip Jones, Senior Curator, Department of Anthropology, South Australian Museum Retired as Chair December 2005
Professor Di Yerbury AO, Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie University Retired as representative of the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee December 2005

The committee held two face-to-face meetings (6 September 2005 and 26 May 2006) and two teleconferences (5 December 2005 and 26 May 2006) to consider applications for export permits and for funding from the National Cultural Heritage Account. Committee business was also conducted out of session, including the consideration of export applications and funding applications and advice to the minister.

Committee-related expenditure for 2005–06 was $17 532 which included sitting fees and costs for attendance at meetings including travel and accommodation.

Register of Expert Examiners

The Register of Expert Examiners was maintained by the committee in accordance with section 22 of the Act. The committee regularly invites individuals with appropriate expertise to be included on the register to assist in broadening the skills available to the committee in seeking expert advice.

The committee wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the expert examiners for giving the benefit of their wide experience and practical support throughout the year. Their specialist knowledge and advice in preparing reports for consideration by the committee and the minister are vital in the protection of Australia’s significant movable cultural heritage, as is the specialist advice they provide to the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Federal Police.

Appendix 1: Summary of export applications and assessments in 2005–06

Export applications
  Applications Number of objects
Applications brought forward as at 1 July 2005 2 2
Applications received during 2005–06 28 111
Active applications during 2005–06 30 113
Applications finalised during 2005–06 24 107
Applications carried over as at 30 June 2006 6 6
Outcomes of applications finalised
  Outcomes Number of objects
Permanent export permits issued 17 19
Temporary export permits issued 9 68
Letters of clearance issued 49 1 857
Certificates of exemption issued 7 17
Permits refused 5 5
Applications withdrawn 4 4
Total outcomes 88 1 967

Appendix 2: Permits issued in 2005–06

Permanent export permits
Description Finalised
1985 Ruby Plains Massacre by Rover Thomas 01.07.2005
1985 Lundari (Battamundi Dreaming) by Rover Thomas 01.07.2005
c.1962 Bark painting Wanjina by Wattie Karruwara 01.07.2005
NSW Matilda Infantry Tank Mark 11 20.07.2005
A Big Hill Gumeri on Bedford Downs Station 1984 by Paddy Tjamatji 22.08.2005
Bush Tucker Dreaming with Running Water, 1972 by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula 22.08.2005
c.1951 Kelly & Lewis Stationery Motor Serial No.6535

c.1951 Kelly & Lewis Stationery Motor Serial No.6431

c.1951 Kelly & Lewis Stationery Motor Serial No. 6485
Sketch of St George’s Terrace, Perth, by Charles Wittenoom 25.11.2005
Wallaby Dreaming, 1972 by Uta Uta Tjangala 13.12.2005
Sharks c.1950, artist unknown 13.12.2005
Mimih Spirit Dancing at Catfish Ceremony 1979 by Peter Marralwanga 10.02.2006
The Milky Way 1964 by Mawalan Marika 10.02.2006
1943 Ford GPA Amphibious vehicle 18.04.2006
Lissadell Country (Bugaltji) by Rover Thomas 18.04.2006
Wild Potato Dreaming 1972 by David Corby Tjapaltjarri 18.04.2006
Bewbew the Giant by Yirawala 01.04.2006
Churchill Mk VII A42 Infantry Tank 08.05.2006
Temporary export permits
Description Finalised
Untitled by Johnny Warangrula 07.07.2005
Dupan by John Mawundjurl 1980 14.07.2005
Ngalyod by John Mawurndjul 14.07.2005
40 objects for philatelic exhibition, titled George V Commemorative and Pictorial Issues of Australia 1927–1936 07.10.2005
An 1851 Navy Colt percussion cap. 36 calibre 6 shot revolver (Ned Kelly’s revolver); three lithographs by Sidney Nolan

A solid plaster cast death mask of Edward Kelly, a fragment of Mrs Curnow’s scarf, Edward Kelly’s rifle, Kelly Gang reward notice poster
Philatelic objects: the Postage Dues of Australia: the Postal Rates of Victoria, the George V Commemorative and Pictorial Issues of Australia 1927–36, NSW: Sydney Views, Laureates and Diadems, Tonga - the Early Period 19.04.2006
14 ochred paintings on board from Turkey Creek (Warmun) in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia 08.05.2006
Dan Kelly helmet 13.04.2006
Tommy McRae, Another Fight c.1890

A bi-cornual basket, north-east Queensland

A rainforest shield, north-east Queensland

Artist unknown (Western Arnhem Land) Untitled (barrumundi, lizards and mission)

Artist unknown (Western Arnhem Land) Untitled (spirit being, long necked tortoise and barrumundi)

Nym Djimurrgurr, Moorool the dreaming man c.1950s

Mandidja (Mamdidji) untitled (Namarnde spirits) c.1950s

Artist unknown (Rembarrnga) untitled (spirit figures) c.1960

Samuel Wagbara Mimihs c.1960

Mawalan Marika Minyapu (Bremmer Island Turtle Hunt) c.1960

Lunaluna Ceremonial Figure (Mokuy) c.1963

Enraeld Djulabinyanna Purukaparli c.1960

Deaf Tommy Mungatopi Coral Phases of the Moon c.1967

Deaf Tommy Mungatopi Coral c.1968

Mickey Bungkuni Wanjina 1964

Charlie Numbulmoore Wanjina 1971

Yirawala Male and Female Kangaroos c.1965

Old Mick Walangkarri Tjakamarra Possum Looking For Food In The Sandhills 1971

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula Water Dreaming with Bush Tucker 1971

Kaapa Tjampitjinpa Budgerigar Dreaming 1972

Uta Uta Tjangala untitled (two boys dreaming) 1972

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri Possum Travelling Love Story 1973

Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri Kangaroo at Ritjulnya 1982
Certificates of exemption
Description Finalised
Pewter Plate Dirk Hartog Dish 1616 —inscribed by Dirk Hartog on Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia

Map Caerte Van Arent Martensz De Leeuw, Opperstierm drawn by Arent Martensz de Leeuw 1623 on voyage of Jan Carstensz

Manuscript Journal Carstensz Journal by Jan Carstensz on a voyage from Amboina to Cape York, Queensland, in 1623
Potato Dreaming c.1972 by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula 15.12.2005
Water Dreaming at Kalipynipa, c1972 by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula. 10.01.2006
Herbert A. Mayer Collection of Australian Aboriginal children’s art 03.02.2006
c.1742–1797 Portrait of Colebee by Thomas Watling

c.1792–1797 Portrait of Nanbree by Thomas Watling

c.1792–1797 Portrait of Gur-Roo-ee by Thomas Watling

c.1792–1797 Da-Ring-Ha, Colebee’s Wife by Thomas Watling

c.1790 Mr. Waterhouse endeavouring to break the spear after Governor Phillip was wounded by Wil-le-me-ring where the Whale was cast on shore in Manly Cove by Port Jackson Painter

c.1790 or 1797 Mr. White, Harris and Laing with a party of Soldiers visiting Botany Bay Colebee at that place, when wounded by Port Jackson Painter

c.1788–1797 A method used by the natives of New South Wales of ornamenting themselves by Port Jackson Painter
1820 North view of Sydney, New South Wales, watercolour and gouache on paper

1828 Ilex paraguensis lithograph, printed in black, hand coloured
1770 – Two Aboriginals fishing – watercolour by Tupaia. Made during James Cook’s first voyage.

1770 – Pencil sketch of figures, implements and canoes by Sydney Parkinson. Made during James Cook’s first voyage.

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