Cultural objects lent to the National Museum of Australia will be protected from seizure under a new federal government scheme.
Arts Minister George Brandis on Thursday OK'd the museum's application to become an approved borrowing institution under the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Scheme for five years.
The museum is only the second institution to be covered under the scheme after the National Gallery of Victoria was included in June.
The scheme provides legal protection from seizure and suit for cultural objects on loan for temporary public exhibition in Australia.
Before the new laws were introduced this year, several institutions, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales had cited the lack of such protective laws as a barrier to negotiating loans where there was potential for dispute about a work's ownership or ethics of acquisition.
Antiquities, indigenous artefacts and works expropriated from Jewish citizens by the Nazis or from Russian owners by the Soviets were among those that have become the subject of such disputes internationally.
Senator Brandis said the scheme ensured Australia continued to benefit from the significant social, cultural and economic benefits that international exhibitions deliver.
The museum had to demonstrate it had the "capacity, expertise and resources to uphold the ethical and legal responsibilities" of the scheme, including consultation with Australian communities on cultural objects proposed for loan and the capacity to undertake provenance checking and due diligence research to the highest international standards.
Senator Brandis said the "significant legal protection" provided by the scheme would cover the museum's forthcoming exhibition Encounters revealing stories behind Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects from the British Museum – the first collaboration.
"This important exhibition will provide Australians with a rare opportunity to view over 150 Indigenous objects most of which have not been seen in Australia since they were first acquired in contacts between early settlers and first Australians," he said.
"The exhibition will also provide an important opportunity for cultural exchange."