Australia's historic shipwrecks and their associated relics are protected by the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. This Act protects all shipwrecks older than 75 years in Australian waters, extending from the low tide mark to the edge of the continental shelf. 'Younger' wrecks less than 75 years old can be especially declared by the Minister e.g. World War II wrecks. The Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act also protects all relics on land directly associated with a Commonwealth historic shipwreck, such as survivor camps, and relics held in private hands. The WA Museum is the delegated authority for management of Commonwealth historic shipwrecks and relics in Western Australia.
More information on the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 can be found on the website of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/index.html
The WA Museum is also responsible for the Maritime Archaeology Act 1973, which protects pre-1900 maritime archaeological sites on state lands and in state waters, such as protected bays, harbours and rivers. Maritime archaeological sites include shipwrecks, early maritime infrastructure, land sites associated with exploration, maritime industries (such as whaling and pearling camps) and shipwreck survivor camps.
The links to the Acts are provided for your information only, and a hard copy from the Government Printers should be obtained for use in legal matters:
1. The Western Australian - Maritime Archaeology Act 1973
2. The Australian Commonwealth - Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976