Nov 1, 2001
[Can You Help? The West Australian November 10, 1997]
Stories like the one above are becoming more common. Rather than signalling growing concern, they should be regarded as a measure of the growth of cultural and heritage awareness in our communities.
Australians now have around 200 years of local history to draw upon and they are gradually becoming aware of the fact that much of that history has been, or is on the brink of being lost.
In many cases, cemeteries and lonely graves contain the only tangible evidence that our pioneers, historical figures and ancestors even existed. Unfortunately many cemeteries have now fallen prey to progress and been resumed. Their ever-present enemies are time, neglect, disrespect and urban sprawl - the latter often being characterised by opportunistic developers looking for a quick profit.
This project has used a rather unique cemetery in the heart of metropolitan Perth to focus attention on the heritage values of cemeteries, and at the same time, highlights the problems associated with the preservation, restoration and protection of such sites.
Western Australia is fortunate in the fact that its legislators have not empowered local authorities to convert historic cemeteries into memorial parks - other States are not as lucky. A glance at Yvonne and Kevin Coate's Western Australian Burial Location Index would reveal that in Western Australia alone, there are around 1700 burial places on record.
This web-site is an introduction to just one of those sites, although it does hold a special place in Australia's history. Fortunately, one of its best preserved sections happens to be the first burial place to be surveyed in Western Australia, and today, it still contains memorials that record burials which took place in 1830 - its first year of operation.
By navigating through the site, page by page, browsers will be presented with a comprehensive analysis of the heritage values of the cemetery; its historical features; a discusssion of the various denominations represented and their burial requirements; and finally, the problems historians have had in working out who was buried in the cemetery. The first section finishes with a virtual heritage trail through one of the most historic parts of the cemetery, and moves from grave to grave, for 30 stops.
The second section of the site delves into a more detailed assessment of the management of the cemetery and focuses its attention on the 100 years that have passed since the cemeteries were officially closed. The pages in this section give a detailed ananlysis of roles played by St. Bartholomew's Church, the National Trust, the various friends of the cemetery, and concludes with the role played by various conservators in the cemeteries.
A third and final section of the site is dedicated to Australian cemeteries in general. First off is a comprehensive introduction for those wishing to interpret the meaning behind the more common symbols used on cemetery monuments. The next page has been set aside to provide links to other Australian cemetery sites with listings on the internet. Next comes a bibliography of useful books devoted to the East Perth Cemeteries and cemetery conservation in general. The final page was added with student visitors in mind, and provides a growing glossary of conservation and funery related terms.