Despite facing substantial obstacles, the members of the FOSBC have achieved a lot at the cemetery over the years.
We believe that getting more people interested and engaged in the cemetery is key to its long-term protection, so perhaps our most important achievement has been to grow from a founding group of just three women in 2005 to having dozens of members now and bringing in hundreds of volunteers to our Guardian Angel cleaning days, and thousands on our tours in recent years.
Early FOSBC volunteers documented graves in the cemetery and helped to correct official records where necessary. We are now commencing the ‘South Brisbane Cemetery Database and Mapping Project’, recording extensive data about every person and every grave in the cemetery as part of a searchable database. We are also developing a complementary mapping component. This project will create a definitive record of the cemetery for all time and encourage in-depth research in the future.
We have also assisted hundreds of people with their family history queries, enabling the sharing of information, documents and images, and leading to the installation of numerous new grave markers in the cemetery.
Tours and Talks
We run the most extensive range of daytime and night cemetery tours in Australia. They have attracted rave reviews and thousands of attendees in recent years. Tour themes include general history, capital punishment, women of history, ghost stories, and macabre history. Most of our tours take place at South Brisbane, although we also run tours at Toowong and Mt Gravatt cemeteries too. These tours are not-for-profit and generate revenue to fund all our activities and projects.
We have also initiated ‘History Among the Graves‘, a series of public talks held in the cemetery itself.
We have lobbied and worked with federal, state and local governments over cemetery-related issues. These issues include:
- the return of lost headstones excavated during the construction of the Busway next to the cemetery.
- the installation of a commemorative marker for the 150th anniversary of the cemetery.
- improving road surfaces and repairing the 1880s main gates on Annerley Road.
- the installation of boom gates on the other cemetery entrances.
- installation of new signage.
- improved security surveillance of the cemetery.
- changing trespass by-laws.
- debunking fabricated ‘history’ stories about the cemetery.
- banning inappropriate and disrespectful commercial activities within the cemetery.
- having dangerous trees removed.
Over the years we have cleaned out every single section of the cemetery, although this work is never-ending and of course many sections revert to an untidy state over time. After the cemetery was flooded in January 2011 we organised two of the biggest community events ever seen in the place – the ‘Sister Suburb Sunday’ clean-up with Channel 7, and the ‘Great Graveyard Shift’ clean up. Both events attracted over 100 volunteers. In 2018 we initiated ‘Guardian Angels‘, a series of monthly community cleaning bees which are very successful and have so far resulted in over a thousand headstones and graves being cleaned by enthusiastic members of the public.
Our achievements were recognised when our members won awards for their work with the cemetery, including the prestigious John Oxley Library Award in 2021 (below left), and also a Griffith Australia Day Award (below right).
We have written a number of affordable booklets about the history of the cemetery and local area. FOSBC committee members Tracey Olivieri and Chris Dawson were awarded the Viva Cribb Bursary in 2011 for their book In Heavenly Garb: The Headstones of the Ipswich General Cemetery. We are currently working on a series of larger publications about the cemetery.
We created this website and have built up the largest social media platform for any cemetery in Australia, allowing us to reach thousands of people and make contact with hundreds of relatives of those laid to rest in the cemetery.
Our record as one of the most dynamic and engaged community cemetery organisations in Australia speaks for itself, but there is still much to be done and you are welcome to join our ranks anytime.
You can also support this important work via the link below.