The Future of the Cemetery
The future of South Brisbane Cemetery is finally looking good. In the 1970s, when there was serious talk at council level of converting the area into parkland, it seemed that the days of the cemetery were numbered. Since that time, however, there has been a rise in ‘heritage activism’, with many different community groups being formed to take care of and advocate for specific historic places. There are now several ‘Friends of…’ cemetery groups across Brisbane.
These organisations have engaged in large amounts of cleaning and maintenance, advocacy, repair work, research, guided tours and publishing. This work has improved the look of the cemeteries, strengthened cemetery protection laws, and greatly increased public awareness of the importance of these old burial grounds.
There has also been a huge upsurge in family history research, and it is not uncommon for these researchers to track down long-deceased family members to places like South Brisbane Cemetery and then take it upon themselves to clean and look after their ancestor’s graves.
The effect of all this renewed interest has been to ensure the survival of heritage cemeteries. This in turn has prompted local councils to start using the cemeteries again and selling off unused or unclaimed plots of land for new gravesites. Although this increases the danger of old headstones being removed, it has also increased municipal responsibility and led to improved care of the old cemeteries for the sake of new ‘paying customers’. There are also new styles of headstones starting to appear in South Brisbane Cemetery as we move through the 21st century.
One has to wonder what the rest of this century holds for these old cemeteries. Will our society continue to care for heritage? What changes will there be in funerary practices and how we remember our dead? Whatever happens, there will inevitably be changes ahead and so now is a good time to get to know South Brisbane Cemetery as it is and become a part of helping to protect and improve it for future generations.