She was born in Braintree, Essex, the daughter of journalist Jack Hay. Burton worked as a freelance production assistant on the set of the TV mini-series Wagner when Richard Burton met her. During a seven-month tour of the United States with Noël Coward's play Private Lives, in which Elizabeth Taylor was Richard Burton's co-star, Burton and Hay married on 3 July 1983 in Las Vegas; it was Burton's fifth marriage and her first. After the tour, they went to rest in Hawaii for several months before returning to their home in Céligny where Burton died on 5 August 1984; Sally Burton was then 36.
In 2012 Burton published the diaries of Richard Burton. She said her motivation was to show Burton's "love for words". In her review of the book, Barbara Ellen in The Guardian wrote
The suspicion forms that Sally's unspoken motivation was to derail, once and for all, the Liz-Dickie show. To demonstrate that, despite all those tales of Burton's sending secret final love letters to Taylor, in which he wrote of yearning to "come home" to her, in truth, he had gone right off her, and, considering what he was writing, near despised her. To my mind, this none-too-subtle attempt to undermine the Burton/Taylor-myth looks a bit vindictive – especially considering that Taylor is dead now, and can't flash those violet eyes, and open that fabulous fishwife mouth, in reply.
Simon De Bruxelles wrote of the diaries in 2012, "The depth of Richard Burton's passion for Elizabeth Taylor is laid bare in diary extracts to be published for the first time this year ... beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography."
The diaries had been kept since 1965 and Burton, "... always maintained that they were personal and not intended for publication."
In 2005, Burton moved to Perth, Western Australia, where her brother and his family had lived for years. In 2009, she launched the Richard Burton Award for New Plays, in conjunction with Black Swan State Theatre Company offering a prize pool of A$30,000 for writers of unproduced scripts; this is Australia's richest prize for playwrights. The 2010 first prize of A$20,000 was awarded to Caleb Lewis; Hellie Turner was awarded the runner-up prize of A$10,000. The prize was not awarded in 2011 and new guidelines were drawn for 2012. The award was shared in 2012 by Ingle Knight and Tommy Murphy who would each receive a commission of $15,000 at the completion of a new play. No further awards have been announced and the award has ceased,
Burton is a supporter of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra; she was a board member of Agelink, a theatre company for older actors. Established in 2007 Burton presents the Sally Burton Awards, a prize pool of A$4,000, to the two most talented performers of Shakespeare texts at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
In 2009 she launched the independent production house Onward Production whose productions ran from 2009 - 2011. In October that year she produced the Australian première of the international touring anthology Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth and Noël Coward's Private Lives at Perth's Subiaco Arts Centre.
Burton had moved to Perth, Australia to be closer to her brother and his family. She first moved into a house in Subiaco, then purchased a recently built nearby house in 2007. In August 2017 she put her home on the market and returned to the UK to live in Suffolk.
- 2011: Burton, Sally (September 2011). "When man created film". Australian Book Review. 334: 38–39., reviewed: Drazin, Charles (2011). The Faber Book of French Cinema. Faber.
- Burton, Richard (1989). A Christmas Story. Introduction by Sally Burton. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-51246-3.
- Richard Burton – Life: 1971–1984 Archived 29 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Burton's women; he had four wives. But on the 20th anniversary of his death, whatever happened to them?" by Glenys Roberts, Daily Mail, London, 11 August 2004
- "Girls, please! Talk about putting the 'dire' into diaries By Barbara Ellen". The Guardian. 16 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Simon De Bruxelles (15 August 2012). "Richard Burton's diary reveals love for the 'exciting, wilful' Elizabeth Taylor". The Australian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Richard Burton Archives: The New Home of Swansea University's Archives, Swansea University, 30 April 2010
- "Ruth Madoc and Sally Burton awarded university fellowships", Western Mail (18 July 2006)
- "Lasting legacy" by Victoria Laurie, The Australian (7 August 2010)
- The Richard Burton Award for New Plays Archived 24 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine at the Black Swan Theatre
- "The AWG Congratulates Black Swan on the Revised Richard Burton Award". Australian Writers Guild. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- "Winners of Richard Burton Award for Playwriting 2012 Announced 31 October 2012". Black Swan State Theatre Company. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Sally Burton". Onward Production. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Sally Burton Awards". Australian Stage. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- "Sally Burton". Onward Productions . Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- "Theatre Australia". Archived from the original on 29 October 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
- "West End boys – Open access: Documenting London's theatres". London: The Stage. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Arylene Westlake-Jennings (6 August 2017). "Richard Burton's widow Sally Burton selling up her Perth home". Community News. Retrieved 12 September 2017.