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The Burra Charter and the Venice Charter

Introducing heritage policies and frameworks

Policies and frameworks help us to understand the significance of heritage in a complex urban setting by establishing guidelines on how to identify and assess heritage buildings and places.

Our urban environment

The cities in which we live affect our quality of life in lots of different ways. No matter what our background, the retention of old places can create a sense of belonging, community and connection to the past. This is why heritage policies, guidelines and frameworks are so important, they guide us in the management of heritage places.

The Venice Charter

In 1964, for the first time, a group of international heritage experts, agreed upon a set of conservation and restoration policies. These policies formed the globally recognised Venice Charter.

Many countries have since developed their own heritage charters. For example, the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter was adopted in 1979. It provides guidance “based on the knowledge and experience of Australia ICOMOS members” (Australian National Committee of ICOMOS, 2013).

The Venice Charter is the foundation of the Burra Charter, and all other current heritage guidelines around the world.

From global to local

Heritage policies and frameworks are complex and often involve different levels of government. We’ve discussed these at the global and national levels, but they also exist at state and local government levels.

A lot of local legislation deals with the protection of places identified as having cultural significance. If people want to make changes to these places, they need to refer to local planning legislation. The heritage legislation explains:

  • how people can apply to make changes
  • which information they need to provide

Local guidelines can also help people to understand the principles used by planning authorities in assessing applications to change a heritage place.


There are several international organisations which promote heritage conservation, for example:

There are also local organisations, like the National Trust, which operate in many countries around the world.

As advocates of heritage conservation, UNESCO and ICOMOS are relevant globally. They campaign for a number of common key principles which apply to many different local contexts. These principles help us to understand how we can look after our common heritage.

In the next step, we’ll look more closely at the policies and frameworks that apply in our local areas.

Your task

Visit the UNESCO and ICOMOS websites.

Can you identify the common key heritage principles they support?

Share your answers in the comments.


Australian National Committee of ICOMOS. (2013). The Burra charter: The Australia ICOMOS charter for places of cultural significance, 2013. Retrieved from http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Burra-Charter-2013-Adopted-31.10.2013.pdf

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This article is from the free online course:

Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters

Griffith University