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Religious Segregation in Cemeteries


One big difference between the South Brisbane and Toowong cemeteries is that the graves in South Brisbane (and also Balmoral Cemetery) are denominationally mixed, while Toowong is divided into distinct religious sections. This is why you will see Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and other graves side-by-side in South Brisbane.

Religious segregation of the dead was more common earlier in the 19th century, a practice no doubt carried over from the days of churchyard burials. By the middle of the 19th century such segregation was becoming increasingly controversial. An 1847 article in the Moreton Bay Courier about a proposed 'Cemetery Bill' criticised religious organisations who were opposed to the establishment of mixed general cemeteries.
'What do they want? A wall, a river, or an ocean to separate the corpse of a Protestant from the perishing remains of his Catholic brother? What is the due and exact distance at which dead Romanists and Episcopalians can rot apart without communicating to each other the responsibilities of their faith? May not the rank grasses be permitted to mingle which flourish above the graves of those who in life were dear friends, or even near relations? Must religion separate the dead when it had no such effect upon them living? If the worms could think they would laugh at a distinction which they must have been unable to ascertain in putrid humanity.' (Moreton Bay Courier, 21 August 1847)
Although the first cemetery in southern Brisbane had been segregated, by the later 19th century it was the norm for new municipal cemeteries not to be segregated, which allowed for easier space management by municipal authorities. It has been suggested that non-segregation was intended at Toowong but the trustees there received numerous requests for separate burial sections from churches and other groups, and so portions were divided upon request during 1874-75 (the cemetery officially opened in 1875, although six burials had taken place there before then).