Guiding Principles

The Burra Charter

International professional associations, such as those of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), work for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world. Australia ICOMOS acts as a national and international link between public authorities, institutions and individuals involved in the study and conservation of all places of cultural significance. ICOMOS is closely linked to UNESCO and is their principal advisor of cultural matters relating to World Heritage.

In 1979, the Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance was first adopted. It became known as the Burra Charter. The Burra Charter is a source of guiding philosophical principles that create an inclusive and nationally accepted standard for heritage conservation practice in Australia.

The Charter covers two important aspects in conserving heritage places. First, it establishes the best practice principles and processes for understanding and assessing a place’s significance, as well as developing and implementing a conservation plan. Second, the Charter defines and explains the four primary cultural values that may be ascribed to any place: aesthetic, historic, social or spiritual and scientific. These values are essential because they delineate the types and quality of information needed to accurately determine a heritage place’s significance. A guideline document is available to explain the application of the Burra Charter in cultural heritage management.

The Burra Charter’s principles can and should be applied to all types of heritage places.  

Guiding Principles - 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

Adopted in 2001, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was created to enable UNESCO member State Parties (nations) to better protect their underwater cultural heritage. Underwater cultural heritage is defined by UNESCO as: ‘all traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years’.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage has not yet been ratified by the Australian Government, but its principles and directives have been adopted by the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) as best-practice management for maritime cultural heritage. AIMA is an incorporated, not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to the preservation of underwater cultural heritage and provides advice to the State, Territory and Australian Federal Government on policy pertaining to maritime cultural heritage. The WA Museum’s Department of Maritime Archaeology, based at the Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle, is an AIMA affiliated organisation.