Author: Carly Godden

Not for sale! Limits on the international trade of records in Australia

Most people in the heritage and archives community understand that Victorian public records are protected from being illegally sold or removed, damaged or destroyed.

Unlike a library you cannot simply borrow a public record from our North Melbourne, nor any other, Reading Room! It is also a crime for a member of the public, or a public servant who doesn’t have permission, to take or sell a public record that belongs to a Victorian government organisation.


Moveable Heritage

Perhaps less well known is that most records held by Public Record Office Victoria and other Australian Federal, State and Territory archives are also protected as ‘Moveable Heritage’. This means that these records cannot be legally exported outside of Australia without a permit.

What’s more, this restriction applies to all ‘documents’ which are:

  • of significance to Australia; and
  • more than 30 years old; and
  • not represented in at least two public collections in Australia by an item of the same quality.

A ‘document’ can include (among other things) books, letters, pamphlets, a sound recording, a film, television or video production, maps, plans, photographs, and drawing or other graphics, whether or not these are hardcopy or digital.

Records or other documents of this type which are sold or exported internationally (for example via eBay) illegally may be seized by Federal authorities and forfeited. Those responsible could also be prosecuted.

More information can be found on the Ministry for the Arts website.

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which governs Moveable Heritage is currently under review. The findings from the review will be reported to the Australian Government on 30 September 2015.