Historic Preservation – Conservation

Heritage preservation, heritage conservation or historic preservation, seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artefacts of historical significance. The term tends to refer specifically to the preservation of the built environment, and not to preservation of primeval forests, wilderness etc. The Burra Charter defines the basic principles and procedures to be followed in the conservation of Australian heritage places.

The Australian Heritage Council

The Australian Heritage Council was established on 19 February 2004 as the Australian body responsible for advising the Australian Government on cultural heritage matters. The Council keeps the Register of the National Estate and assesses nominations for the:

Please note: the Australian Heritage Council has replaced the Australian Heritage Commission.

The Burra Charter

In 1979, the “Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance” was adopted at a meeting of Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) at the historic mining town of Burra South Australia.1 It was given the short title of The Burra Charter.

The Burra Charter accepted the philosophy and concepts of the ICOMOS Venice Charter, but wrote them in a form which would be practical and useful in Australia. The Charter was revised in 1999 and has since been adopted by the Australian Heritage Council (December 2004), the Heritage Council of New South Wales (December 2004), the Queensland Heritage Council (January 2005) and the Heritage Council of Victoria (July 2010).2 It is also recommended by the Heritage Council of Western Australia 3 the Tasmanian Heritage Council.4


The Burra Charter is recognised as having pioneered the understanding of cultural heritage as going beyond the mere preservation of the built environment in Australia.5

“To Australians, the Burra Charter is probably the most significant document of the last thirty years on the basic principles and procedures for the conservation of heritage places. It provides a guiding philosophy for the care of our heritage and has been widely adopted as the standard guidelines for heritage conservation practice not only in this country, but also in other parts of the world.” – Heritage Perth.6


The Burra Charter identifies three levels of repair for heritage structures.2 These are:

  • Preservation – Maintaining a place in its existing state and preventing further deterioration.
  • Restoration – Returning a place to a known earlier state by removing accretions or by reassembling existing elements without the introduction of new material.
  • Reconstruction – Returning a place to a known earlier state and is distinguished from restoration by the introduction of new material.

Historic Preservation

  1. SA Department of Environment, Water & Natural Resources — The Burra Charter.
  2. Australia ICOMOS — The Burra Charter.
  3. Heritage Council of Western Australia — The Burra Charter.
  4. Publications Heritage Tasmania.
  5. Gilmour, Tony (2007). Sustaining Heritage: Giving the Past a Future. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 155.
  6. Heritage Perth — The Burra Charter Retrieved 16 August 2011.