Cemetery Renewal – Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia


Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia, Cemetery Renewal, Office of Australian War Graves
Fig.1 – Grave of Fletcher and Gladys Brand, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA

In February 2017, when I arrived with my young son at the gravesite of my great-grandparent’s Fletcher and Gladys Brand, I noticed a plaque that said it is in an area approaching renewal (see Figure 1).1   We were on a quick trip to visit my great aunt, when I decided to take my son to Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia to see where some of our ancestors are buried.  This was when I first heard that Karrakatta Cemetery is currently undertaking a cemetery renewal program.2  I thought, that is lovely, graves are being done up as part of a cemetery renewal – how naive I was!


I did not think much more of this until in July 2017 when I found the Facebook Group, “Saving Family Headstones at Karrakatta”.  I lost my naivety that day as to what Cemetery Renewal is and my concerns only grew the more I read.  Carol Trigwell started this group in May 2017 to raise awareness and fight what is occurring at Karrakatta Cemetery, and has become a tireless campaigner ever since.3  She found out by chance a couple of years ago that her parents’ headstones were to be removed under this program as the “lease” had automatically run out in 2012.4  This Facebook group seeks to educate people and address concerns about the Cemetery Renewal Program being run at Karrakatta Cemetery.2  Finding this group explained why we had been unable to find a number of ancestors graves.  What had become of them?


What is cemetery renewal?

Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Fig.2 – Cemetery Renewal in Progress, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA – Courtesy of Debbie Morrison

Cemetery Renewal is a program being undertaken by the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (MCB), the organisation responsible for managing a number of cemeteries including Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia.2.  The cemetery renewal program, is the redevelopment of older gravesites, within the cemetery boundary, to create room for new burials.2  Karrakatta Cemetery has had an active renewal program in place since the 1970’s.2,5  The cemetery renewal process at Karrakatta Cemetery involves the removal of headstones that are not considered to be of historical importance, grassing over the areas, and developing new gravesites in the old walkways (See Figure 2).2 This process is being done in accordance with the Western Australian Cemeteries Act 1986.6  I have been unable to establish what criteria is used to assess historical significance of a grave and it appears to miss gravesites that should be considered as historical – read Susan’s story below.


Karrakatta Cemetery states that gravesites are not disturbed, however, the new site does encroach on either side of the original site.2  It is hoped it does not touch the coffin but we cannot be sure. Karrakatta Cemetery is happy for new burials to occur in existing family graves.2  However, if an area has already been developed, it would be impossible for the family of original occupants of that site to be buried there.  The most obvious signs of cemetery renewal is on the surface where there are significant changes above ground including new lawns, gravesites, walkways, and roadways.2



Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Fig.3 – Wall Containing Headstones, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA – Courtesy of Georgie Vine

Prior to removal, some headstones are photographed and details recorded for future historical research.2  The worst part is, that whilst some headstones are placed in gardens or walls around Karrakatta Cemetery, others are simply destroyed.  It appears that no record is kept as to where the headstones have been placed and it is feared the majority have gone forever.  Whilst there are many walls around the cemetery that contain headstones (see Figure 3) it would appear that there are nowhere near as many markers as there are cleared sites.  Many people are against this renewal program, as it appears that dollars are the main driving issue not the loss of loved ones final resting places.  In years to come people researching their history will be unable to find their ancestor’s grave as there will be no marker.   When you go to visit a more recently buried family member, you will be standing on someone else’s loved ones final resting place.

Karrakatta Cemetery state:

Once the complete scope of the renewal project is established, an extensive 12 month community consultation period commences.2



Karrakatta Cemetery Map - Cemetery Renewal, Perth, WA
Fig.4 – Karrakatta Cemetery Map – Courtesy of Metropolitan Cemetery Board

This process involves signage around the site due for renewal, letters to registered family members, and advertising in The Western Australian newspaper.2 I have not lived in Western Australia since the 1970’s, and whilst I have been to Perth a number of times on holiday in the ensuing years, it was not until the late-1990’s I had an interest in cemeteries.  I also did not come across the cemetery renewal program until I visited this year.  I do not subscribe to The West Australian, and given I have family members buried in many locations throughout the country, it is not feasible for me to stay abreast of all publications.  I personally do not believe they are doing enough to educate people in regards to the program.  This was my first visit to Western Australia in 13 years so how was I to know?  Given the mobility of the population today, I think more advertising needs to be done, and not just in a paper that is only readily available in Western Australia.  The map (see Figure 4) shows areas already renewed as well as areas coming up for renewal.7


Gravesites are given an original 25-year lease and families can choose to purchase another 25-years, as long as it is purchased within the first 25-years.2]  If this does not occur within the timeframe the gravesite reverts to the MCB, however the further 25 years is at the discretion of Karrakatta Cemetery “subject to any conditions that the Board may wish to impose.”2  That is, a further 25 years may be refused if there are plans to renew an area that the grave occupies.2

On their website, the Metropolitan Cemetery Board states:

Parliament endorsed legislation stipulating that Grants of Rights of Burial issued prior to July 1 1987 that had not expired by July 2 2012 would, collectively, expire on July 2 2012.8

Whether it be the first or a subsequent burial, the Grant held over a nominated burial plot must be current at the time a burial is conducted. Once a Grant expires, official ownership of the plot reverts to the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board.8


Basically, this means that all graves in a proposed renewal area, either expire by the 25-year rule or by the automatic cancellation of rights on 2 July 2012.  Even if you have had a recent burial in that grave, the 25-year grant is from the original grant and not from the newest burial – read Sharon’s story below.


There are many concerning facts about the renewal process which have been enshrined in law in the Western Australian Cemeteries Act 1986.  Notwithstanding, the whole process of renewal, the clause in the Act I find most concerning is:

Part IX – Miscellaneous. 59.Board may authorise exhumation and re‑burial.

A Board may in writing authorise the exhumation of a body buried in the cemetery and the re‑burial or disposal of the ashes after cremation of the body in that cemetery.9


Ethically and morally this is a concerning piece of legislation, given that many people are buried as their religions do not condone cremation.  The question that needs to be asked here is, what are the future plans for Western Australian cemeteries with this clause included in the Act?


You can read more about Karrakatta’s Cemetery Renewal Program by downloading this brochure from the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board website.




The Future of Cemeteries


Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WAMajor cities around Australia are running out of available space in their cemeteries to conduct burials.  Some cemeteries say it is too expensive to maintain cemeteries without new interments and that if cemeteries are to exist for years to come then renewal must occur.2,10  It beggars belief, how a country with so much land to spare is unable to keep up with the burial demands of its population.  There are so many new housing developments being created, so why is the issue of what to do with the deceased of these new communities not being addressed?


Prior to writing this article, I decided to see if this was an issue solely at Karrakatta Cemetery or whether it is more widely spread.  I must admit I had no idea of the extent of the issue and have been shocked by what I have found. Many people would be under the misbelief that a grave is for life, a permanent fixture – I know I certainly was.10



South Australia
Dudley Park Cemetery, South Australia, Cemetery Renewal
Dudley Park Cemetery, South Australia – Courtesy of State Library of South Australia

In Dudley Park Cemetery in Payneham, South Australia, over 400 graves have been bulldozed to recycle graves.10  Dudley Park states they follow the South Australia Burial and Cremations Act 2013 which allows for sites to be reused upon expiry of the internment rights.11  The cemetery ensures that they photograph and record the details of each site before reusing the sites to retain the historical integrity of the cemetery.10  As at Karrakatta, gravesites considered to be of historical importance are not removed, but again I do not know what criteria is used to assess this.10





Suncorp Stadium, Queensland
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.org
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

In reading the article about Dudley Park Cemetery, I was reminded of a famous Brisbane site that is on a reclaimed historical cemetery – Suncorp Stadium.12  Despite having lived in Brisbane for over 30 years I only heard of Suncorp Stadium’s prior use a couple of years ago.  In 1842 the North Brisbane Burial Grounds was established, however by 1875 there was a need for a much larger cemetery and the Brisbane General Cemetery at Toowong (now Toowong Cemetery) was established.12


The old cemetery became overgrown and the Government turned it into a recreation ground in 1910, with relatives of existing internments given the option of moving their relatives to other locations with unclaimed sites being left and their headstones turned to landfill.12  Now Suncorp Stadium is a major sporting venue which has seen sporting events such as the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, the WBO welterweight title fight, and entertainers such as Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift.12 However, just because this has occurred in the past, does not make it right for now and into the future.


New South Wales

Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western AustraliaThis issue was further pushed into the spotlight in recent weeks when the NSW Government proposed a new burial rental scheme.13  Under the proposed NSW Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Regulation 2017 people would be given the right to rent the grave for 25-years and then, if family choose not to extend this, the bones would be removed to an “ossuary house” or bone room.13    Any memorials would be returned to the family.13


The NSW proposal has given the public the opportunity to have a say prior to this being implemented, however it would appear that the “no attempt has ever been made to legitimately gauge the public’s response on this issue” in Western Australia.13,14  Why are the general public largely unaware of these redevelopment programs?   Whilst I find what Karrakatta Cemetery is doing repugnant, it does not compare to the sacrilegious NSW proposal to exhume bodies, however this option is also contained within the WA Cemeteries Act 1986 (see above Part IX – Miscellaneous. 59.Board may authorise exhumation and re‑burial).



Examples of Preservation

In some locations around Australia there are examples of programs that encourage cemetery preservation.  Here are a couple of examples.


St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta, NSW
St John's Cemetery, Parramatta
St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

St. John’s Cemetery in Parramatta, Sydney, NSW was established in 1790 with over 50 First Fleeter’s interred there.15  It is also the location of the oldest surviving headstone in Australia.15  Michaela Cameron, Historian and Project Manager of the project is working on preserving the site to get National Heritage listing and keeping the cemetery in the consciousness of the community.15   She says that the biggest threat to our cemeteries is:



Apathy. The worst thing that can happen to any cemetery is for people to simply disconnect from it (along with their own history) and not see its value.15


This is an Anglican, rather than a public cemetery, however they appear to be rather more sensitive around the issue.  They do not appear to feel the need to continue making a profit.  I believe lessons can be learned from their example of a well-managed historical site with cultural significance.


Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland
Toowong Cemetery Rolling Hills
Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane

Brisbane City Council manages a number of historical cemeteries within its boundaries, including South Brisbane, Balmoral, and Toowong Cemeteries.16  The Council works with historical groups to preserve these sites for future generations.16  For example, Toowong Cemetery is still in existence today with Brisbane City Council and Friends of Toowong Cemetery working together to ensure this historical cemetery remains for generations to come.17,18  There are some burial sites available, as well as the option for direct descendants to be buried in family plots if there is space, or if the last burial was over 30 years ago.18  How are some cemeteries able to work closely with community groups and others do not appear to?


Whilst some Governments and cemeteries appear to be doing all they can to preserve our heritage, others allow cost pressures to drive their policies.  What some cemeteries seem to forget is, that whilst they have a business to run, the people buried in them are someone’s child, parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent.  People want to be able to have somewhere tangible to visit their loved one.  And whilst 25-years plus 25-years seems like a long time to grieve, there are people who do still go visit their stillborn child, their mother who died in childbirth, or their father they never met, who died in a war fighting for our country.  Did anyone ever tell Queen Victoria she was not allowed to grieve for 50 years?  Our ancestors, our families, purchased plots for their loved ones to rest in peace.   They certainly did not purchase plots to rest in peace for 25-years with a possibility of a further 25-years.  Our ancestors are a part of who we are, our personal history – their lives and contributions deserve our respect.  Why have their graves become a commodity?  What lessons can be learned from these cemeteries that encourage preservation?



Impact on the Living – The Stories Behind the Dollar


There are many stories of people affected by these cemetery redevelopment programs.  These following stories, told by Carol, Sharon, and Susan, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Carol’s Story


Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Clive and Vivette Higgins Gravesite Karrakatta, Perth, WA – Photo Courtesy of Carol
Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Vivette Higgins Headstone, Karrakatta, Perth, WA – Photo Courtesy of Carol















“These are the faces of the graves that will go, in the redevelopment programme at Karrakatta.  A little weather-worn, but still in good condition.  My grandmother Viviette Higgins, I never knew her but she’s still family, she died in 1938 of basically malnutrition she had kids to feed never enough for her. She died young so sad.”


Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Clive Higgins Headstone, Karrakatta, Perth, WA – Photo Courtesy of Carol




“My uncle Clyde Higgins, was the nicest man I ever met, he was like a father to me.  He was a jockey in the 40s horse stomped him in the head. He was semi-paralysed down one side, he walked like he was drunk.”





“They are going along with the others there.  Not just concrete and sand. They were actually people who lived, built and paid taxes in Australia for them to be treated like this.”


“Shame Australia.”






Sharon’s Story
Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA
Gravesite of John Bertram and James Hargreaves Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA – Photo Courtesy of Sharon

Sharon buried her beloved son. when he was just 21-years old in 2009, in a family grave at Karrakatta Cemetery that had been granted in 1959.19  Little was she to know that on 2 July 2012 the lease automatically expired, which saw old tenures automatically run out on that date.  This is how Sharon found herself less than 8 years after her son’s death fighting to keep his gravesite in place.  She had paid to bury him and place a headstone, yet she lost all rights to his grave in less than 3 years.  With the support of Saving Family Headstones at Karrakatta she has been able to extend the grant until 2042.19 Whilst Sharon has had a win not everyone has or will be as lucky.  This was not an easy process, and was filled with lots of heartache along the way, as Sharon explains:

Thanks to all the help and support from the wonderful people working on this site and behind the scenes, that I am one of the very lucky people that get to keep my son’s resting place from being removed. Only 8 years has my son been layed [sic] to rest, and I never would of imagined that I would of had to go through the grieving and emotional turmoil of the process that the MCB put myself through.3




Susan’s Story
Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA
John Godfrey Johnson and Ellen Maria Johnson Headstone, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA – Courtesy of Susan

“The headstones of my Grandparents and my Aunt have been destroyed as part of the Redevelopment Program at Karrakatta Cemetery.  John Godfrey Johnson and Ellen Maria Johnson and my Aunt Victoria Lillian Johnson were buried together.  The Cemetery Board decided to redevelop the area in which they are buried.  Their headstones were arbitrarily deemed to be damaged, despite no damage showing in the photos taken by the Board – so they were destroyed.”

Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA
Victoria Lilie Wallis Headstone, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA – Courtesy of Susan

“My Grandparents were pioneers of the State.  My Grandmother had 17 children and built the family home in Darkan WA, stone by stone from the local creek.  She is mentioned in several books on the area and is to be part of a historical display being prepared by the local council.  She was awarded a WW1 Mother’s Medal with 5 bars to mark 6 sons who went to war – Gallipoli and the Somme – by the Governor of WA.  This was a record for WA –  6 sons sent off to war from the one family.  The State was rightly proud of her and she travelled to Perth to be presented with the medal (a big deal at the time).  Amazingly all 6 sons returned from war – however, some had been badly wounded.  Two of the younger sons (my Father included) enlisted to serve in WW2.

My Grandparents and Aunt are now in an unmarked grave, its position unable to be located, they have no headstone, no plot number.  It is as if they never existed and yet they had a big impact on this State.  Unknowingly people trample over their grave to visit their own loved ones.  I now cannot visit them pay my respects and tell them I love them.  I have no place to lay MY flowers.
They will never be forgotten – they are still loved.”




My Story

I am one of the lucky ones – I have seen the gravesites of my great-grandparents Fletcher and Gladys Brand, and their sons Donald and Dudley.  I have photos, not just from my visit this year (see Figures 5 and 7), but from 1956 (see Figures 6 and 8).21,22,23,24 There are many people who make the trip to Karrakatta Cemetery and find nothing, or another person’s headstone where their loved one should be.  As I have already mentioned, gravesites with historical significance are protected at Karrakatta Cemetery, and this includes some war graves.1  However, as I said I have been unable to find what constitutes historical significance and have discovered some returned soldiers are treated more favourably than others – only some are being saved .


Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia, Cemetery Renewal, Office of Australian War Graves
Fig.5 – 2017 Fletcher Alderwin Brand, Australian War Graves Headstone, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA.
Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Fig.6 – ‘1956 Fletcher Alderwin Brand Gravesite, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA

For example, my great-grandfather Fletcher Alderwin Brand has been buried at Karrakatta since 1947 and is in an area approaching renewal.  He has a plaque saying the monument is being repaired by the Office of Australian War Graves as he fought in WWI and is being remembered by his nation (see Figure 5).2,21






Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia, Cemetery Renewal, Office of Australian War Graves
Fig.7 – 2017 Hilton Dudley and Donald Raymond Brand Headstone, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA
Cemetery Renewal, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
Fig.8 – 1956 Donald and Dudley Brand Gravesite, Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, WA














If you look closely at Figures 5 and 6, you can see a gravesite directly behind Fletcher’s headstone.  This grave is of Fletcher and Gladys’ sons, Hilton Dudley Brand and Donald Raymond Brand, who died in separate accidents in 1944 (see Figure 6).25  Dudley (Hilton) was in the army in WWII yet his grave is not protected, but Fletcher is because he was in receipt of a war pension at the time of his death.2  I have contacted the Office of the Australian War Graves to see if they can protect Dudley and Donald’s grave too, but to date, no-one has responded to my queries.  They are cousins of Sir David Brand, Western Australia’s longest-serving Premier, yet it would appear they are not considered as important.26   Both boys were very much loved and very much missed and even as my grandmother was dying last year, she and her sister were talking about them.  So why is my great-grandfather worthy of being honoured with his remains but not my great-uncle Dudley?  Why are some people more important than others?


UPDATE 23 February 2018

Today I discovered that my information about Fletcher’s grave being safe is incorrect.  I had based my assumption, and that is what it was, an assumption that his grave was safe because of this:

Those service personnel who died during the specified war periods for the two world wars and other wars, conflicts and military operations and who are buried in the Perth War Cemetery or general cemeteries throughout the State of Western Australia, including Karrakatta are in the main, not affected by the Cemetery Renewal Program.2

However, what I have failed to see was four little words “in the main”.  Further down it states:

However, under MCB regulations, memorials may be removed from graves where official commemorations have been provided for eligible veterans buried in an area that has been identified for renewal. Official commemoration would then be provided elsewhere in Karrakatta or in the OAWG Garden of Remembrance adjacent to the Perth War Cemetery.2

The OAWG is responsible for the maintenance of all official commemorations in perpetuity. It is therefore the preference of the Office that these official commemorations are retained for all time. The MCB has always ensured the issue of war graves be dealt with responsibly and respectfully.2

So, whilst the OAWG states that they will care for the graves and they prefer that Karrakatta keeps them in place, the reality is Karrakatta can choose to remove the grave and just commemorate the individual in another location in the cemetery.  Not even our war heroes are safe.


Questions to Ponder


I have come to realise as I write this piece that there are many questions to answer.  I leave you with the following to ponder.

What happens in 50, 75, 100 years when they are out of space again?

How do they address finding new burial plots when they have already renewed an area?

What is the criteria used to establish historical significance?

How is a large country like Australia running out of land for new cemeteries?  Why is this not being addressed?

Why are the considerations of the family not being adequately taken into these policies?

Why is the general public largely unaware of these redevelopment programs?

Is a cemetery just another source of government income, or a place where the dead are respected and allowed to rest in peace?

How are cemeteries allowed to treat people like this?

How are some cemeteries able to work closely with community groups and others do not appear to?

What lessons can be learned from these cemeteries that encourage preservation?




What Can You Do?


At the end of the day once the cemetery is renewed we cannot get back the history that was removed.  There has already been so much destroyed that we can never get back.  We all need to get involved now so that our descendants can see what we see, can walk where we walk, can visit their ancestors.

  • Find out what is happening at your local cemeteries.

  • Register your name as a contact for family graves.

  • Join a “Friends of” a cemetery group.

  • Write to your local member.

  • Sign the petition to save graves at Karrakatta.


On that note, I will leave you with the following wise words of ‘The Lorax’

The Lorax - “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

1. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, ‘Name Search: Fletcher Alderwin Brand’, http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KB00083089, Accessed 13 December 2017.
2. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, ‘Cemetery Renewal’, http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/our-cemeteries/karrakatta-cemetery/cemetery-renewal, Accessed 13 December 2017.
3. Saving Family Headstones at Karrakatta, https://www.facebook.com/groups/317215618710978/, Accessed 10 December 2017.
4. WAToday.com.au, ‘Family Voices Shock as parents’ graves marked for removal at Karrakatta Cemetery’, http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/family-voices-shock-as-parents-graves-marked-for-removal-at-karrakatta-cemetery-20150724-gik40j.html, accessed 13 December 2017.
5. Abc.net.au, ‘What Happens When Burial Grounds Fill Up?’, http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/07/30/3556637.htm, Accessed 13 December 2017.
6. Western Australian Legislation, ‘Cemeteries Act 1986’, https://www.slp.wa.gov.au/pco/prod/filestore.nsf/FileURL/mrdoc_28609.htm/$FILE/Cemeteries%20Act%201986%20-%20%5B03-a0-00%5D.html?OpenElement, Accessed 18 December 2017.
7. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, ’Karrakatta Cemetery Map’, http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/docs/default-source/maps/karrakatta-cemetery-map.pdf?sfvrsn=e3fb884b_6, Accessed 13 December 2017.
8. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, ‘1986 Cemeteries Act Review and Grant Tenure’, http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/our-cemeteries/1986-cemeteries-act-review-and-grant-tenure, accessed 18 December 2017.
9. Western Australian Legislation, ‘Cemeteries Act 1986’, https://www.slp.wa.gov.au/pco/prod/filestore.nsf/FileURL/mrdoc_28609.htm/$FILE/Cemeteries%20Act%201986%20-%20%5B03-a0-00%5D.html?OpenElement, Accessed 18 December 2017.
10. Theconversation.com, ‘Losing the Plot Death is Permanent but Your Grave Isn’t’, http://theconversation.com/losing-the-plot-death-is-permanent-but-your-grave-isnt-33459, Accessed 13 December 2017.
11. Government of South Australia, ‘Burial and Cremation Act 2013’, https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/C/A/BURIAL%20AND%20CREMATION%20ACT%202013.aspx, Accessed 15 December 2017.
12. Suncorp Stadium, ‘History’, http://www.suncorpstadium.com.au/The_Stadium/History, Accessed 13 December 2017.
13. News.com.au, ‘NSW Government Flags Plan For 25 Year Rents for Grave Plots to Make Room in Crowded Cemeteries’, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/nsw-government-flags-plan-for-25year-rents-for-grave-plots-to-make-room-in-crowded-cemeteries/news-story/ff7618e7c3c7508d67ad009db27d3d8c#sharehash, Accessed 10 December 2017.
14. PressReader.com, ‘Public Should Have a Say at Karrakatta’, https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-west-australian/20171128/281779924440223, Accessed 10 December 2017.
15. Inside History Magazine, ‘Preserving a Historic Australian Cemetery: St John’s, Parramatta’, http://www.insidehistory.com.au/2017/06/preserving-a-historic-australian-cemetery/, accessed 13 December 2017.
16. Brisbane City Council, ‘Historic Cemeteries’, https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/parks-venues/cemeteries/historic-cemeteries, Accessed 14 December 2017.
17. Friends of Toowong Cemetery, ‘Home’, fotc.org.au/home/home.htm, Accessed 14 December 2017.
18. Brisbane City Council, ‘Toowong Cemetery’, https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/parks-venues/cemeteries/toowong-cemetery, Accessed 14 December 2017.
19. Metropolitan Cemetery Board, ‘Name Search – John William Bertram’, http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KB00113404, Accessed 13 December 2017.
20. Metropolitan Cemetery Board, ‘Name Search – James Hargreaves’, http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KB00198534, Accessed 13 December 2017.
21. Megan Walker, ‘Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia – ‘2017 Grave of F.A. Brand and Gladys Brand’, Digital Image, Personal Collection.
22. Megan Walker, ‘Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia – ‘1956 Grave of F.A. Brand and Gladys Brand’, Digital Image, Personal Collection.
23. Megan Walker, ‘Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia – ‘2017 Grave of Donald and Dudley Brand’, Digital Image, Personal Collection.
24. Megan Walker, ‘Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia – ‘1956 Grave of Donald and Dudley Brand’, Digital Image, Personal Collection.
25. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, ‘Name Search: Dudley Hilton Brand’, http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KB00074897, Accessed 13 December 2017.
26. Australian Dictionary of Biography, ‘Sir David Brand’, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brand-sir-david-9571, Accessed 13 December 2017.

35 thoughts on “Cemetery Renewal – Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia

  1. What a tremendously well-researched article. I think it’s fascinating, what happens with abandoned graves, graves that are unpaid, or cemeteries when we just don’t have space for them any more. You’ve really opened my eyes to some of the alternatives! I understand the significance of seeing the graves of your own ancestors, but I think my personal choice will be cremation, particularly because I don’t have children/no one’s gonna miss me!

    1. Hi Penelope

      Don’t ever think no-one will miss you because you don’t have children – you have made an impact to someone at sometime in your life and you will be missed. Cremation is obviously a much more sustainable option than burial as it takes up much less space for a memorial. I’m just sad for the people who have chosen burial for loved ones and now face the real threat of not being able to visit their graves. I was unaware this was occurring and it certainly has opened my eyes.


      1. I agree, it does seem quite unfair for people who assumed they’d have the “final” resting space, or that the grave would be paid in perpetuity, for family members to come and visit. It is a very emotional thing for people, even for relatives that died many many years ago. I’m always sad when I see cemeteries that haven’t been kept up (vandalism, crumbling gravestones, etc)

        1. Hi Penelope

          It is heartbreaking. I always love to visit a cemetery and wander around and imagine the lives these people lived. I also love to see some of the intricate designs in the workmanship of the graves and headstones. It is sad that this history will be gone forever and that the government does not seem to understand people’s attachment to their ancestors and their graves.


  2. I am so truly impressed by all the detailed information you have shared here. While I am impressed, on the other hand, totally startled by what has been happening at Karrakatta Cemetery. Like you, I am deeply rooted in my family and have done extension research on my family’s history. I can only imagine how you felt when you were unable to find some of your ancestors’ graves!

    After reading this amazing article, I totally agree with you that the public needs to be educated. Your article is certainly a helpful tool for those of us unaware. Your questions to ponder at the end of the article are definitely thought-provoking and very important to keep in mind.

    Thank you for posting the list of what individuals can do to get involved. That is very useful information. I did not know someone could register to be a contact for family graves. I am definitely going to share this information with my family members – especially those who are working on our next reunion.

    In your research, did you run across any information that indicates there are renewal programs in the states?

    Once again, thank you for this enlightening article. Keep up the great work!


    1. Hi Yvette

      Thank you for your lovely response to my article. I have put a lot of time into researching and writing it as it was a very hard piece emotionally to write. It is absolutely shocking what is occurring here in Australia. Unfortunately, I do not know if this is occurring in the United States – I really hope this is only something occurring here and has not occurred elsewhere. It’s going to be hard enough to stop it now! I have ancestors buried in the UK and the USA and I would hate to make a trip to see their graves in the future to find this has occurred elsewhere. I suggest you contact some historical cemeteries that you have ancestors buried at and see what you can do to help to preserve the history.


  3. Hi Megan, beautiful sharing. Reading your very brilliant article made me remember an instance when a few years ago I went with my mom to visit her grandparent’s tomb. It has been a yearly tradition every November that we visit my great grandparent’s tomb as it also serves as a mini-family reunion. To our surprise, the tomb where we gather was nowhere to be found. We initially thought we were just lost because there was a sea of tombs but we knew we were not mistaken because we always have a landmark (a very conspicuous leaning tree) that even from afar you would see it. Tomb by tomb we searched for her name but to no avail. Upon going to the Cemetery’s Registry Department, we were advised that there was a general inventory that occurred in that year and most of the tombs which have been erected/laid for the past 50 years have now been transferred to a common area to give way to new ones. We were flabbergasted. We felt disrespected and utterly disappointed. Though we were led to “the common area” which they even made a tombstone list of all that was “transferred”, something was amiss because it felt like they treated all the remains in just one pile.At that moment, how can we know which remains belong to which? Not that we want the bones or anything, but it’s the disrespect that came with it is appalling. So I guess, like in Australia, it happens worldwide, the Philippines not exempted. Many Cemetery management, in pursuit of a profitable margin, tend to find “creative” ways to deal with it. Sadly, many are affected by their so-called “Cemetery Renewal” which leaves our deceased loved ones in sham. I am not surprised why in my country, cremation has been a new norm because aside from avoiding these land renewal mess, the urn with ashes can be very mobile and space will not be a great concern. The urns are placed in special apartments in the Churches or for some, they even bring it home. Again, thanks for sharing your article. This one is also close to my heart and I feel for everyone affected by it.

    1. Hello JR

      I am so sorry this happened to you and your family. How utterly devastating to find your loved ones just gone from their final resting place with no notification of what has occurred. I was hoping that this practice in some cemeteries in Australia was isolated but sadly it would appear not. Thank you for sharing your experience as it builds the knowledge base we have regarding this issue.


  4. This disgusting redevelopments program has been happening for too long. We the ppl of Perth are losing our heritage and our loved ones resting places. No one has the right to tell you how long you can grieve for.

    1. Hello Carol

      Thank you for responding. It is a heartbreaking program, that is for sure, and you are so right that people can grieve for as short or as long as they want! So much for having a grave for life.


  5. Thank you for your indepth research and writing this article.
    All my Dads side are buried at Karrakatta and this ao called renewal program has impacted very sadly on my family gravesites too.
    Some have already been destroyed, others under threat.
    I am in my 60’s now, have cancer and ro to have worry about all this, os juat unbelievable.
    I also live overseas, and so manage all the family issues in Perth is very difficult from afar.
    The support from the Saving Family Headstones at Karrakatta, haa been a godsend.
    My family were the early pioneers settlers of the Groip Settlement Schemes after WW1.
    They came out of Sheffield. Battle worn from fighting in Paschadaele, Salonika.
    Then to the horrors of unfulfilled promises of Farms in virgin forrests of Norrhcliffe WA.
    They derserve their resting place now, and to REST!
    This they cannot do, as whatever the ‘historic criteria’ Karrakatta uses, they dont matter… already one Great Aunts grave was destroyed, despite copious information held about her family in the Northcliffe Pioneer Museum.
    So thank you, for your article.
    I pray it will have some influence and affect the heart and minds of those making these terrible decisions and laws, that are destroying what Rest in Peace should mean.

    1. Hello Linda

      I am so sorry for what you and your family have, and continue to endure. Your story is the reason I wrote this article – along with the stories of all the other families who have lost their loved ones final resting place. It is so hard knowing what is occurring but feeling like there is nothing we can do but protest to deaf ears. I hope you have a win for your loved ones.

      All the best

  6. Megan, the graves that are being saved are the official war graves with an official headstone. Just serving in the war is not sufficient, there is a need for the official war grave head-stone, as appears on your great grand-father’s grave, only allocated to those who have died due to war causes. I too am lucky that my grandfather’s grave still exists due to having such a headstone. Had he died during the war he’d have been buried in the official war graves section but he actually died in 1930 and his death was considered to be war caused. So he is buried in a section that has been renewed, but due to a memorandum of understanding between the war graves commission and the cemetery, all graves having the official headstone are permanently safe (of course, unless the memorandum of understanding itself expires).
    I’ve just hit an unexpected hiccup though. My grandmother bought a double plot in 1930 to bury my grand-father, lease now expired. No-one has since been buried in the plot alongside my grandfather, but as it is one double plot with one curb surround, rather than two single plots sitting alongside each other, it all falls under the protection of the War Graves Commission, so the cemetery board cannot excise the unused plot and put it to use. the half alongside my grandfathers grave has a granite slap with plaques commemorating my grandfather’s 2 infant daughters who died just after childbirth (2 of three triplets)and his wife (added in the 1970s before the original 50 year grant expired), plus three further plaques were added in 1996, for the other triplet and her husband, and his son-in-law (my father). My mother has recently died and I planned to complete the two generations represented by adding her plaque to the family plot. However, in order to add a plaque I will need to repurchase the lease, and because it is one double plot, not two separate single plots, I will need to repurchase both leases, costing approx. $5000.
    So ironically, the family plaques are safe and have stayed in position only because they are enclosed in the double plot with my grandfather’s war grave, but adding one small 5 by 7 inch plaque will cost me nearly $6000 by the time I’ve repurchased two leases and paid the cemetery fee, installation, etc. I have been told I can write a letter to see if the cemetery will allow me to only pay for one plot. I do understand the importance of money to enable the cemetery to maintain the grounds, but it is a daunting prospect.
    The renewal brochure says that each renewed area has a plan in one corner marking the location of all graves, including those from which any identification has been removed, so that might be worth checking if you get a chance to visit again in the future. As I understand it, the cemetery board should also be able to provide you with a printout of the exact location of each of your family member’s graves.
    all the best,

    1. Hi Wendy

      Hi Wendy

      What a situation to find yourself in. What I don’t understand is if the double graves are saved because of the War Graves status then why do you need to pay $5000 to repurchase the grant for the upkeep of the graves? It doesn’t sound ethical to me that you are required to pay for both tenures again when War Graves are caring for the grave. As to my case, I understand that because Dudley’s service wasn’t classed in the same way that is why he is not protected but who decides who is more worthy? AT the end of the day what is occurring is morally wrong. Our families expected to rest in peace for eternity and this policy is not allowing that. Everyone is important enough to save!


      1. There is a remembrance book in each section . Covered in ants and it’s disgusting.
        Lives reduced to lines in a book with no headstone as a beacon for the living to visit

        1. Hi Carol

          I just have no words after writing this article. It clearly states what the issues are but the more comments that appear on this blog regarding what is occurring the sadder I become. It is a heartbreaking situation for everyone.


  7. As an Italian living in UK, Megan, I wish the news came to me as a surprise. However I recently found out, after my father’s death in 2015, that a similar process takes place in Italy. This is process that, as far as I am concerned, does not yet extends to UK – but then I am not sure about the overcrowded cemeteries of the bigger cities.
    In Italy, when a member of your family passes away, you may have the option to bury him or her in the ground or ‘in a wall’. The latter option is naturally more feasible if cremation has taken place, but otherwise there are walls built in cemeteries, which are thick enough to take a coffin horizontally. The need for wall burials has been in place for decades as far as I am concerned, and is dictated by the need of ground, or rather by the lack thereof.
    Now, due to the same shortage, if your family member or yourself decides to be buried in the ground, the family will purchase a 10-year lease, at the expiry of which you are called to witness the exhumation of the coffin. Many people, I am told, find this most distressing, as they have to witness the coffin being opened to ensure that the remaining of the original body are legally transferred into a smaller coffin, which will then mandatorily be put in a wall. You can chose which wall within the cemetery ground, you want the smaller coffin to be put, but you can no longer extend the ground lease. You will be asked to purchase a wall lease for another period of time, or indefinitely – but I am not sure about this.
    I expect that is why the Catholic Church has become more lenient about its views on cremation. It sounds like cremation is the only option that will avoid any further distressing experiences further along in a not too far future.

    1. Hi Giulia

      I am heartbroken to hear that this process is occurring in other countries.  Until I learned about Karrakatta Cemetery I was unaware these programs were in place.  You are correct that it would be distressing for family to witness the exhumation and 10 years seems such an incredibly short time for this process to occur.  I only hope that the authorities implementing these programs realise the emotional harm they are doing to people and find other ways to deal with the issue of lack of space.



  8. The thought of cemetery renewal is beyond outrageous. I can only imagine how you and your family must feel about this. Never thought in a million years I would have to worry about not enough cemetery space for our loved ones. It is for this reason, I personally, want to be cremated. I appreciate your post as it is thought-provoking and brings much attention to this delicate matter.

    1. Hello Meherbani

      Thank you for reading the article.  I am glad you found it thought-provoking as that is what I was aiming for.  I want people to think about this and to be outraged that this is occurring.  I am so saddened that our ancestors paid to “Rest in Peace” yet they are being totally disrespected in these programs.  I understand now why cremation has become more popular over the years.



  9. O my land you really stumbled on something here. All I can say is wow and this is immorally wrong. There shouldn’t be an agreement to lease a grave site for 25 years and then have to renew it later. Nor should they be able to build roads or businesses. You have done a very nice job on your research and you put this together very well. I am not sure I can say the same for the people who have the umph to do this. You really got my attention. And you did a great job on this piece well done and thank you for the knowledge.

    1. Hi Melissa

      Thank you for taking the time to read this article and comment.  It is totally immoral.  This has to stop and the only way is with people power.  Our ancestors, our loved ones, did not expect to only rest in peace for 25 years.  It is heartbreaking to hear the stories.  Everyday I hear more and more stories.  It is breaking my heart.



  10. In Victoria Burials are safe, but not cremations. Springvale Cemetery at least reuses Cremation plots, I don’t know if they scatter the ashes or rebury them in bulk. The plaques, if not claimed by relatives are melted down and the metal reused. For a distant cousin I was initially told I was not close enough to claim the plaque. But after it had been destroyed and I made comment I was then told any relative, me included could get the plaque!! Too late then, not happy Jan.

    1. Hi Graeme

      I cannot believe that cremations aren’t safe in Victoria! They take up so little space in comparison to burials yet they are the ones at risk – doesn’t make sense. I would hope that any relation, if you could prove it, would be able to retain the plaque. That is wrong that they denied you that. Some distant cousins may not have married, or died very young, and not have anyone else to claim them. I hope they don’t put another family through what they put you through!


  11. WOW! Eyeopening to say the least. I’ve wondered about what happens at cemeteries when they run out of space, but have never given it any real thought. I haven’t heard of this issue in the States, but I’m sure this problem exists. I have yet to be impacted by an issue like this but it raises questions. Will my great grandchildren be able to visit my grave? Great great grandchildren? It’s a little spooky and sad, as something we do with our children is visit both sets of grandparents and great grandparents at their gravesides a few times a year. Well written and researched article. It is important for community and family members to raise awareness about this. Just because your relative wasn’t a historical figure doesn’t mean your family should be denied the opportunity to visit their final resting place.

    1. Hi Niko

      Thank you for your reply.  You are right, it is sad and spooky, as you said, that this is occurring and I hope it is not occurring near you.  I am saddened that I have probably already lost family members under a garden, path, road, or somebody else’s new grave.  It is definitely something the community needs to be aware of and by writing my article I hope to raise awareness.  



  12. I am shocked and appalled that anyone could be so disrespectful of the heritage of another individual! Our history is what makes us who we are, and those who refuse to acknowledge the past jeopardize the future. It is our personal responsibility to out ancestors to preserve their history for future generations.

    1. Hi Jason

      There are many of us that are outraged over this redevelopment program.  It is disrespectful and does not consider the feelings of the people left behind.



  13. Thankyou for. Taking the time to write all this . It’s. so heartbreaking. I am also disgusted in what they doing at Karrakatta. Regards Lynnette x

    1. Hello Lynnette

      It is heartbreaking and the more people that learn about and petition for it’s cessation the better.


  14. This has angered me for a long time, I first earnt about it in the 1990s.
    People were told family sites and service persons graves would be spared.
    Too many aren’t told about the 25yr lease rules and why does the Act apply to ALL WA cemeteries. My dad is in an expired small country town cemetery.
    There are better ways they could be doing this, instead of clearing whole areas on mass, careful removed row by row. Allowing new ad old headstones to be next to each other. Also allowing people to be interred with a loved one if they so wish.
    Although Karrakatta looks nice near the office/admin block go out further and it’s disgraceful the leaf litter allowed. I also don’t know why grassed areas can’t have plaques o them like the ones at Pinnaroo.
    People are walking over areas they don’t know have graves under them, which was considered disrespectful to my upbringing.
    People need to join Saving Family Headstones and write letters of complaint to both the MCB and their local MP. https://www.facebook.com/Savingfamilyheadstonesatkarrakatta
    This has been going on for decades.
    The 1986 Act needs to be revoked.
    Too much history “legally” destroyed.

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