The 1970s Beautification Scheme

Municipal cemeteries had become an unwanted expense for the Brisbane City Council during the 1970s. Now largely closed, they generated little revenue but required constant maintenance. Many of those family members who had once tended the graves of loved ones had either died themselves or moved away, and many older graves were not being looked after.

A city council ‘Beautification Scheme’ was initiated in 1975. The idea was to remove thousands of untended graves that might be classed as ‘unsightly or dangerous’ and therefore create more green space, making it easier to mow the grass in the cemeteries. Letters were sent out to registered Next of Kin asking if they were prepared to look after the grave, or instead have any monument on it removed. Many of these letters did not reach their intended readers, some of whom had moved house, or even died. The council deemed any non-reply as permission to remove headstones.

According to a sexton who worked there during this time, approximately 1,000 South Brisbane headstones were then removed by the council. A majority of these were used within the cemetery to infill the gullies. Some were not removed but instead laid down and covered over. Sandstone slabs from plinths were also used in the foundation during construction of the wall along part of TJ Doyle Memorial Park Drive, on the riverside boundary of the cemetery.

A smaller, second wave of removals occurred in 1978. Some of these were exposed during construction work next to the cemetery in 2005, and FOSBC members campaigned to have them returned to their original locations