The Cemetery Renewal Program has been implemented at Karrakatta Cemetery since the 1970s. Without the program Karrakatta would have closed for burials in 2004. Initially opened for burials in 1899, Karrakatta comprises a significant land holding that is now technically full. Located within Perth’s western suburbs and only minutes from the city centre, Karrakatta can’t expand. There is, quite simply, no additional land available in the immediate metropolitan area.
The cemetery is full. Can’t you just shut the gates?
Shutting the gates, ceasing to offer burials and, effectively, ceasing the practice of trying to accommodate the cultural and spiritual requirements of our diverse community would considerably diminish Karrakatta’s ability to meet its community obligations. Karrakatta is a site of great import for many Western Australians and many families view Karrakatta as the place in which, ultimately, generations of the same family are able to be reunited in eternal rest. If Karrakatta was to cease offering burials this would no longer be possible.
Even if the gates of Karrakatta closed, the MCB has a responsibility to maintain the gardens, burial areas and facilities for generations of families to follow.
An unmaintained cemetery not only disrespects the memories of those laid to rest but can also become a significant safety hazard as monuments or other structures become dilapidated. There is also the threat of an abandoned cemetery being redeveloped for purposes other than commemoration of the deceased.
Closing Karrakatta is an unpalatable option.
The renewal program keeps Karrakatta open, ensuring that the cemetery can continue to meet community need. It ensures that the cemetery is able to provide ongoing maintenance and it helps ensure that Karrakatta is accessible for all Western Australians.
Are bodies dug up or disturbed?
Absolutely not. Only the surface environment is altered. New graves are located in the pathways between the old graves. Old headstones are removed so that the new headstones have sufficient room to be placed. Modern occupational health and safety guidelines also need to be adhered to and, as such, modern beam based lawn areas are generally now the operational and social preference.
With the increased popularity of cremation in Western Australia many of the old burial areas are transformed into beautiful garden environments with old headstones placed throughout.
What happens to the old headstones?
Prior to the commencement of renewal there is a 12 month public comment period. Historical research is undertaken and each grave is assessed. Families are also invited to make submissions to have their plot retained. An overall findings report is presented to the Monument Assessment and Advisory Committee (MAAC). The MAAC determines which headstones will be removed and which ones will be relocated within the area. For detailed information on this process we strongly advise you to follow the detailed Cemetery Renewal Information link at the bottom of this page.
Over the years the challenges involved with managing the old headstones has been refined. They are not crushed and used for other purposes. Headstones are not disposed of unless they are already significantly damaged (Note: renewal headstones are generally 50+ years of age and some are brittle with weathering). Whilst a number of families opt to collect their family headstone, some families opt to purchase the new plot next door thus ensuring that family members can be reunified within the same area for generations to come.
The vast majority of old headstones are reinstalled within the renewed area. Driving through Karrakatta many visitors comment on the beautiful and respectful integration of the old headstones within the new gardens. It is a unique blend that ensures that history is maintained and modern community requirements can be met.
Whilst cemetery renewal initiatives exist in varying guises across Australia, the Perth model has made a concerted effort to ensure that old headstones are retained as a respectful historical showcase within our cemeteries.
War Graves. What happens with them?
Recognising the valiant efforts of our soldiers and the need to preserve these memories, the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board has a long standing Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG). The OAWG State Manager also sits on the MAAC committee and provides advice on the renewal process from the military’s perspective.
The MCB continues to work closely with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Office of Australian War Graves to make sure that war graves are identified. The headstones of Official War Graves are NOT disturbed or modified in any way during the renewal process. These are left in situ.
For detailed information on war graves and the renewal process we strongly advise you to follow the detailed Cemetery Renewal Information link at the bottom of this page.
The above information is a broad overview of the Cemetery Renewal Program. For detailed information and to search the MCB database, please follow the link below. Renewal is a sensitive topic and one that the MCB has made a considerable effort to implement respectfully. It is an in-depth process and it is important that the public have the correct facts. Please form a considered and well informed viewpoint over a program that, for 30 years, has ensured that the gates of Karrakatta remain open.
If you have a question about the MCB cemetery renewal process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will aim to assist you with an answer. Alternatively, please contact Client Services at our Karrakatta Office via telephone 1300 793 109.
Click here for detailed information about the Cemetery Renewal Program at Karrakatta Cemetery.