Thursday, 7 March 2013

Cemeteries of the Future…….

Taphophilia is defined as a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries[1]. It is sad to say, that not everyone enjoys exploring cemeteries or the ponderings of the lives of those that were interned. It is even sadder to say that not everyone believes that cemeteries are a place where we can pay our respects to the dead and thank them for the contribution their life made, no matter how small or big that contribution was.

Frightening isn’t it?

Even more frightening is the contemplation that cemeteries are being defiled. I do not mean by vandals, or youngsters with no respect or understanding of respect, but by community officials.

It is happening, the world over and ultimately driven by money. What society puts money and profit before respect? That for me is one of my personal values.

Last week, I became aware of the plight of a series of cemeteries in Australia, that are facing decimation, not by vandals, but as I have described by an attempt to save money. These are the graves of, not just the pioneers of Australia, but of the people that shaped Australia into being the nation it is today.  As it stands, Australia is only 225 years old in its colonised format.

A fellow genealogist, Catherine who writes at Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie had already experienced a similar issue in South Australia and was delighted when the South Australia Burial and Cremation Bill had passed it’s second reading in the House of Assembly and was due a further debate in early March, ironically on the day I am writing this article. In reality as I type this in England on Tuesday morning the debate as already been heard in Australia.

So at this point all was looking pretty good, the people who sit at the heart of the Australian Government were listening. Then it became apparent that whilst in South Australia they were listening they were not in other parts of Australia.

On the blog That Moment in Time, written by Chris was a posting just last week of the shameless desecration of the Karraketta Cemetery in Western Australia. You can read that heartbreaking post HERE.

So what can we do?

There is a petition lobbying the Labour Party of Western Australia to bring an end to the clearing of the cemeteries in this region. You can sign the petition HERE. This petition can be signed by anyone, anywhere in the world, whether or not you have ancestors in this region. Indeed I have signed it from my home in England. As far as I know I have no family members buried in this particular cemetery.

Remember, this may not be in your particular backyard, or at least not this time.

There is a very active Face Book page called Saving Graves - WA which exists to support the petition. It has photographs, current news and press cuttings.  Indeed, the group is very passionate and quite rightly so. Craig Hyde, Media Advisor for Saving Graves WA has written very passionately about the situation and I urge you to read his post HERE

There is also a link to a file detailing all the graves recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that are to be removed. Haven’t those already named on those headstones already paid the ultimate price?

Press Release of Saving Graves WA

Furthermore, it became apparent through the reading that I undertook for this article that “some graves were to be preserved for significant historical or architectural reasons”[2] Disgraceful, that even in death we are not equal.

The genealogy community is a big one and through the advancement of social media we, as a body of genealogists and family historians have a much stronger voice. One that needs to be heard, and indeed should be heard.

Whilst this may seem someone else’s problem it is not. The very moment a community displays this level of disrespect and it remains unchallenged then we as a group of genealogists, historians and family members are sending the signal that it is perfectly OK to show this level of disrespect to the generations that went before us. We must therefore stand together, united as previous generations did at battle and demand that our ancestor’s final resting place remains undisturbed

So, please get involved, support our fellow citizens.

I shall close with a poem, written by Chris of That Moment in Time, as this simply says it all.


I went to visit Grandma
Her stone it wasn’t there
I thought I made an error
But I did look everywhere
It was then I noticed rubble
Right against the fence
And a dumpster full of rubbish
It really was quite dense.
Then I saw my Grandma’s name
As if she was calling me
“Please help me darling granddaughter
Will you please help me be free
For crushing is the next step
Road base they say they need
  I suspect that that is just a cover up
It all comes down to greed.
The land here’s rather valuable
I heard the workmen say
My lovely stone you saved for
Will be destroyed today.”
© Crissouli - 2013

Saving Graves Western Australia can be supported by

[1] Wikipedia -
[2] Quote from Steve James, Client Relations Consultant for the Western Australia Metropolitan Cemetery Board, Published in the “Subiaco Post on 1st May 2006.


  1. Thanks so much Julie for you support for those all the way down here, in Western Australia, as they battle trying to stop their gravesites being desecrated.
    Fabulous that it was also published by the "Graveyard Rabbit"... Hoping this bring LOTS of signatures, from caring folks overseas, for that petition!!! ... greatly appreciated.

    1. You are welcome. I see this morning that just 88 signatures are needed for the petition, so the end is in sighte!