The Australian Government works collaboratively with the States, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island government agencies through the Historic Shipwrecks Program (the Program), to protect and conserve Australia’s irreplaceable underwater heritage to ensure our shared heritage can be enjoyed now and by future generations. The Program has been operating since 1983 and is one of the longest running and successful Commonwealth intergovernmental programs.
The participant’s jointly administer and manage underwater cultural heritage that is located adjacent to their coasts and provides national consistency over how shipwrecks, sunken aircraft and other types of underwater heritage is protected and managed. The participants also work towards fulfilling the objectives of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018, which are to:
- provide for the identification, protection and conservation of Australia’s underwater cultural heritage; and
- enable the cooperative implementation of national and international maritime heritage responsibilities; and
- promote public awareness, understanding, appreciation and appropriate use of Australia’s underwater cultural heritage.
The Program also facilitates collaborating with Australia’s regional partners in the south west Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia to promote the protection of underwater heritage and to assist these nations where possible in developing their own national programs. The Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database, which has been developed under the Program, provides these nations with a tool to develop inventories of their underwater heritage sites and associated artefacts.
Contact with any of the Programs participants can be made in the first instance by email to UnderwaterHeritage@environment.gov.au your inquiry will be forwarded to the appropriate partner agency.