Australia's his­toric ceme­ter­ies

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS -

IT MAY seem strange, even a bit macabre, but I don’t mind wan­der­ing around an old ceme­tery; in fact, I go out of my way to find them and see what in­ter­est­ing graves and head­stones I can find. In my de­fence, I’m not alone in this. If you do just a cur­sory search on the in­ter­net you’ll find all sorts of web­sites ded­i­cated to our ceme­ter­ies and graves and the people and his­tory con­tained within. At the en­trance to the Beech­worth Ceme­tery Trust, there’s a plaque that tries to ex­plain the fas­ci­na­tion ceme­ter­ies hold for people as well as a self­guided tour of his­toric graves. In ceme­ter­ies, lives are com­mem­o­rated and the tes­ti­monies of de­vo­tion and pride are there for all to see, al­low­ing com­mu­ni­ties to pay re­spects to those who lie there. Fi­nally, a ceme­tery is a his­tory of people, which may ex­plain why the Na­tional Trust of Australia (www. na­tion­al­ set a goal of record­ing all the known burial sites, first in NSW but hope­fully and even­tu­ally across Australia. An­other spot to start re­search­ing ceme­ter­ies is www.aus­tralianceme­ter­, and you’ll also find many books, guides and other re­sources avail­able on our his­toric ceme­ter­ies in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne. The old­est ceme­tery in Australia is the St John’s Ceme­tery in Par­ra­matta – the first in­ter­ment was a child who buried there in 1790. You don’t have to visit too many ceme­ter­ies to re­alise that back in the early days of the set­tle­ment and even into the 1900s, grow­ing up in Australia was a risky un­der­tak­ing. I re­mem­ber find­ing one head­stone in a re­mote ceme­tery in out­back Queensland at the site of an old gold­field where five chil­dren un­der the age of 11 years old were all lost to the one family in the course of just 10 years. Could you imag­ine such heart­break? Wan­der­ing out­back NSW ear­lier this year we got to White Cliffs where we checked out the lo­cal pi­o­neer ceme­tery. The story was much the same with most who were in­terned there be­ing kids, some just a few months old. They make heartrend­ing read­ing! In the re­mote northern Flin­ders Ranges at the Yud­na­mu­tana min­ing site you will find a small ceme­tery. While some of the ar­eas within pay trib­ute to the early pi­o­neer prospec­tors buried there, oth­ers re­veal the tragedy and hor­ror that un­folded in a per­son’s life. Right across Australia, es­pe­cially in those of­ten short-lived min­ing ar­eas such as Yud­na­mu­tana, you’ll find ceme­ter­ies that record how tough life was in these re­mote fields. Some of the older ones re­veal thirst as the cause of death, while oth­ers tell of fa­tal falls or crushes in min­ing ac­ci­dents. At Mt Mul­li­gan in far north Queensland, the lo­cal ceme­tery tes­ti­fies the worst min­ing dis­as­ter in Aus­tralian his­tory. Here in 1921, a series of un­der­ground ex­plo­sions killed 75 min­ers. Of course, not all those who died in re­mote ar­eas of Australia were buried in a ceme­tery. My great grand­mother was one of them; she lies buried amongst a small thicket in the mid­dle of a wheat pad­dock not far from Sal­mon Gums, in­land from Esper­ance, WA. Such lonely graves can be found all over Australia, and they serve as poignant re­minders of our past and the en­deav­ours of our fore­fa­thers and moth­ers. You’ll be sur­prised at how in­ter­est­ing it can be haunting ceme­ter­ies and other lonely graves!

Ex­plor­ing Australia's out­back ceme­ter­ies is not about be­ing macabre, it's a great his­tory les­son

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