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Heritage Act 2017

The purpose of the Act is to provide for the protection and conservation of the cultural heritage of Victoria.

The Act creates a framework to identify the most important non-Aboriginal heritage in Victoria, and regulates changes to those places. The Act also creates offences and other enforcement measures to protect and conserve heritage.

Scope of the Act

The Act sets out procedures to identify places of state heritage significance, and of historical archaeological value. It also establishes the processes for obtaining approvals for changes to those places, enforcing compliance, and other administrative procedures.

History of the Act

The Heritage Act 2017 came into operation on 1 November 2017.

It replaced the Heritage Act 1995, which replaced the Historic Buildings Act 1981 and the Historic Buildings Act 1974.

Key roles and responsibilities

Heritage Victoria regulates the Heritage Act 2017. This includes:

The Heritage Council of Victoria decides what to include in the Victorian Heritage Register. They are the review body for permit and consent decisions made by Heritage Victoria.

The Minister for Planning may take responsibility for a registration decision, or the review of a permit or consent application, that is before the Heritage Council. The Minister for Planning may refer a review of a permit or consent application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for determination.


Heritage Regulations

The Heritage Regulations 2017 and Heritage (Underwater Cultural Heritage) Regulations 2017 set out the requirements for operation of the Heritage Act 2017.

Regulations are statutory rules created by Parliament.

The regulations:

  • Set fees for certain activities, including permit and consent applications
  • Set penalties and infringement offences
  • Require details and results of all historical archaeological surveys to be provided to Heritage Victoria
  • Establish the rules relating to shipwreck protected zones
  • Establish the requirements for some documents and forms
  • Establish waivers for certain application fees

Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018

The purpose of the Act is to protect Australia’s shipwrecks, sunken aircraft, and other types of underwater cultural heritage.

In Victoria, the Act covers all ‘Commonwealth waters’. Commonwealth waters are from three nautical miles from the Victorian coastline, to the outer limit of Australia’s continental shelf.

The Act automatically protects all shipwrecks and aircraft that were sunk in Commonwealth waters more than 75 years ago.

Scope of the Act

The Act ensures our underwater cultural inheritance is protected for future generations by:

  • Recognising that human remains found within shipwrecks or sunken aircraft must be treated with respect and not as artefacts
  • Enabling protection of Australia’s underwater cultural heritage in waters outside of Australia from actions by Australians
  • Broadening protection to sunken aircraft and other underwater cultural heritage sites
  • Elevating the role of the public by recognising their role in promoting awareness, understanding, appreciation and appropriate use of Australia’s underwater cultural heritage
  • Modernising and strengthening the range of compliance and investigation powers, while adopting a graduated approach to enforcement
  • Declaring protected zones to provide additional protection to some sites
  • Continuing the highly successful delegated framework for day-to-day management in collaboration with the Australian States and Northern Territory.

History of the Act

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 came into operation on 1 July 2019. It replaced the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Key roles and responsibilities

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 is Commonwealth legislation. It is administered by the Australian Government. Heritage Victoria has a delegated responsibility for day-to-day decisions under the Act.

Page last updated: 23/02/21