The Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 (Cth) and Associated Reforms: Some Preliminary Comments on its General Content and Implications for the Law of Salvage

Guy Jesse Dwyer


The Australian Parliament's new legislation for regulating the protection of Australia's underwater cultural heritage - the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 (Cth) - recently received assent. The Act is to commence on a date fixed by Proclamation or, if no such date is fixed, on 25 August 2019. When it commences, the Act will serve to modernise and expand upon the existing regime for protection of specific forms of underwater cultural heritage. The purpose of this article is to provide some preliminary comments on the general content of the new Act and discuss the implications of the Act for the law of salvage. In the process, the article situates these preliminary comments in their broader context by providing an overview of the interaction between the protection of underwater cultural heritage and the law of salvage. It is submitted that, despite some deficiencies, the Australian Parliament is generally to be congratulated on an Act that is, for the most part, well drafted, structured and easily to understand. It is also submitted that the law of salvage will generally have no application to underwater cultural heritage. Some recommendations are made in the article as to ways in which the Act can be further improved


Underwater cultural heritage; salvage; historic shipwrecks; relics; domestic implication of international law concerning underwater cultural heritage; UNESCO Convention; Law of the Sea Convention

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