The Burra Charter is a set of principles that have been adopted to create a nationally accepted standard for heritage conservation practice in Australia. It is not a legal requirement to adopt the Burra Charter guidelines, however they are well entrenched in policy.

The Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance, known as the Burra Charter, was first adopted at Burra in 1979.

The Burra Charter defines the basic principles and procedures to be followed in the conservation of heritage places. It does not prescribe the techniques to be used or the manner in which a heritage place should be cared for. These principles and procedures can be applied to a monument, building, garden, shell midden, rock art site, road, mining or archaeological site, or to a whole region.

Under the Burra Charter, people involved in the conservation of heritage places should:

  • understand the place and its cultural significance, including its meaning to people, before making decisions about its future
  • involve the communities associated with the place
  • care for its cultural significance and other significant attributes, taking account of all aspects of significance
  • care for the place's setting
  • provide an appropriate use
  • provide security for the place
  • use available expertise
  • make records of the place and changes to it, and the reasons for these decisions
  • interpret and present the place in a way appropriate to its significance.

The Burra Charter advocates a cautious approach to changing a place. Only the work necessary to repair and secure and to make it function is recommended so the history of the place can continue to be recognised.

Download the Burra Charter at the Australia ICOMOS website.

Burra Charter 1999

Australia ICOMOS made a video demonstrating the Burra Charter in practice - 'The Burra Charter - Caring for Heritage Places: introducing the Burra Charter', showing how its ideas can be used to appropriately conserve heritage places. This video was prepared for Australia ICOMOS with support from the Australian Heritage Commission, Australia Foundation for Culture and the Humanities and the National Trust of Australia. Executive Producer - Bill Nethery, Film Maker - Dale Baker, Narrators - Jack Mundey and Peter Forrest. Watch the video here.

Note: The above information is taken from the brochure by M. Walker Understanding the Burra Charter (Australia ICOMOS,1996).