Vandalism: A Modern Scourge?

Cemetery vandalism provokes strong community outrage, and rightly so, but there is a sense that this is a crime associated with modern society. Sadly, the truth is that there has been a long history of such attacks in South Brisbane Cemetery. Back in 1916, a young man was jailed for stealing iron fencing from the cemetery, and in December 1938 vandals caused extensive damage there by breaking, overturning or ‘removing’ 30 headstones, and also smashing expensive vases and urns on graves. Similar damage was inflicted at Toowong Cemetery in 1949. The Brisbane City Council also documented several grave monuments that were vandalised at South Brisbane Cemetery during one night in the 1960s.

Vandalised headstones, South Brisbane Cemetery, 1960s. (BCC)
Vandalised headstones, South Brisbane Cemetery, c. 2010. (FOSBC)

While large-scale vandalism attracts more attention, smaller single incidents have an incremental effect over time that can be just as bad – except that not many people will notice that it is happening. South Brisbane Cemetery suffers from this problem, and we notice a case here and then every now and then.

Thanks to the efforts of the FOSBC in 2010, the Brisbane City Council now sends regular security patrols through the cemetery at night and has installed boom gates on unsecured road entrances. We were also part of a group effort that led to the local council introducing laws to make it easier to prosecute cemetery vandals. There is still much to be done in preventing vandalism, however, and the FOSBC believes that one useful step is educating young children so they appreciate what makes cemeteries so interesting and worth looking after.


Cemetery Watch

In the shorter term, the FOSBC asks people to keep their eyes and ears open for signs of occurring vandalism, or evidence of damage already done.

If you do notice any vandalism occurring, or any other suspicious activities going on inside the South Brisbane Cemetery, please contact the local police on 131 444.

If you see any damaged headstones or evidence of inappropriate use of the cemetery, please contact the FOSBC at, and send a photo if possible. This will help us keep track of the incremental damage that all too often goes unnoticed and unreported.