For a comprehensive guide to cemetery renewal, download the MCB's publication Ensuring the Future
Ensuring the Future for Western Australia’s Premier Cemetery
Since the first burial of Robert Creighton in 1899, Karrakatta Cemetery has become the chosen resting place and memorial location for hundreds of thousands of Western Australians.
With its rich history Karrakatta has come to hold a special place in the hearts of many Western Australians. It is a place to visit loved ones, friends and family of past generations – a place to reflect and remember.
Karrakatta is facing several major issues in meeting the burial needs of the community. These include:
- Lack of space to conduct burials.
- Future expansion is restricted by Karrakatta’s central location. At other MCB cemetery sites there are increasing external influences, such as the Bush Forever initiative, that are limiting the development of new burial land.
- Whilst cremation is now the preferred service at Karrakatta, the religious and cultural requirements of approximately 20% of families ensures that there is a continued need for burial grounds.
- Monuments on graves in areas where the right of grants have expired generally tend to fall into a state of disrepair and have the potential to become safety hazards.
A full cemetery – what are the implications?
There are thousands of full cemeteries across the world.
With no capacity for expansion within the surrounding areas, it was initially anticipated that burial land at Karrakatta would be completely occupied by 2004.
The potential decline in income derived from burials combined with the absence of a sustainable renewal initiative, means either limited or no ongoing maintenance or further beautification of this historic cemetery.
Disused cemeteries can be dangerous. The MCB has an obligation to maintain safety standards throughout Karrakatta. Loose headstones and crumbling gravesites can present a serious hazard to the public. Without a comprehensive renewal program in place, decayed monuments in areas marked for renewal might be removed in the interests of public safety with little regard given to historical considerations and the preservation of memories for future generations.
Across Australia and around the world thousands of closed and deteriorating cemeteries located in residential areas have been redeveloped for other purposes. Given the central location of Karrakatta Cemetery, pressure to redevelop the land could become alarmingly high.
Urban redevelopment in East Perth and its impact on the historic East Perth cemetery provides an insight into the potential future if Karrakatta was to close its gates to new burials and memorial gardens.
How do we solve the problem?
Keeping Karrakatta operating as a cemetery capable of serving the needs of a changing society offering both burials and memorialisations, is a challenge that the MCB has been working towards since the 1970s.
The trend towards memorialisation as opposed to traditional burial practices has certainly assisted with prolonging the useful life of Karrakatta. It has also presented a great challenge for the MCB to develop a wide range of memorialisation options that truly reflect the ever expanding requirements of families.
Burials still make up a significant number of the total annual services at Karrakatta with an average of 900 burials taking place each year. This continued demand has ensured that the need for new burial land is ongoing.
To ensure that Karrakatta could continue to keep its gates open for traditional burials, the MCB commenced the process of ‘Cemetery Renewal’. A practice that exists across the globe in a variety of differing guises, Cemetery Renewal is best defined as the redevelopment of existing cemetery burial areas to accommodate new gravesites and memorial locations.
The MCB realises that Cemetery Renewal is a sensitive topic and one that needs to be implemented with both compassion and understanding.
Legislation governing renewal programs is covered under Division 4 of the Cemeteries Act 1986.
Renewal! You don’t mean 'dig-up?'
Cemetery renewal is not about digging up old graves.
Cemetery Renewal concerns the redevelopment of existing areas with NO disturbance to the remains interred within existing graves. Put simply, new graves are located alongside old graves and within areas that were previously used as walkways.
An instance where an existing interment may be disturbed is when, at the request of a family member, a grave is reopened to accommodate a new burial from the same family. The concept of reuniting family members within the one grave is becoming increasingly popular at Karrakatta and has the admirable outcome of providing a family resting place across the generations.
Although there is no disturbance to burials below ground level, Cemetery Renewal, as the name suggests, does result in a significantly remodelled surface environment.
Once preparatory tasks have been completed, the renewed area will accept new burials and/or memorials. The end result will be a beautifully landscaped memorial garden incorporating retained headstones, a burial site combining new and retained headstones or a unique location featuring a combination of new and old headstones complemented by gardens.
The Stages of Cemetery Renewal
Steps taken prior to commencing renewal in a designated area form part of a detailed process. Key stages are:
- Expiration of the Grants of Rights of Burial
- Historical Research & Analysis
- Community Consultation
Expiration of the Grants of Right of Burial
A Grant of Right of Burial is purchased to allow future burials in a grave. All grants at Karrakatta are initially issued for 25 years with the option for renewal for a further 25 years. If required, a further Grant of Right of Burial within the renewed area may be applied for (i.e. retaining of the original headstone). This will require a repurchase of the Grant of Right of Burial to assist in covering maintenance costs for the ensuing 25 year period.
Generally speaking, cemetery renewal is only undertaken in cemetery areas where all or most of the Grants of Right of Burial have expired (i.e. the expiry of the 25 or 50 year plots within the area proposed for renewal). Many of the headstones in such areas have fallen into a state of disrepair and, as research indicates, are rarely (if at all) maintained by visitors to the grave.
Historical Research & Analysis
The MCB is committed to safeguarding the memories of generations of families.
Prior to proposing the removal of any headstones, the MCB consults with a committee that comprises MCB staff, board members, historians, genealogists, architects and a representative of the Office of Australian War Graves. This ensures that all headstones are assessed across a wide range of criteria including, but not limited to, stonemasonry craft, historical significance of the persons buried and the cause of death. This committee is known as the Monument Assessment and Advisory Committee or MAAC.
Once the complete scope of the renewal project is established, an extensive 12 month community consultation period commences.
Given the sensitive nature of cemetery renewal, the MCB has developed an extensive framework for community consultation and also employs a Client Relations Officer to liaise closely with those individuals directly affected by a renewal proposal.
Steps in the consultation process include:
- High profile site signage
- Letters sent to families who have registered their contact details
- Press advertising
- Assessment of submissions received.
High profile signage is erected in proposed renewal areas. The overall aim is to clearly communicate that the area in question is being considered for renewal and that those affected should seek further information from the MCB.
Attempts are made to contact family members. However, given that contact details are often not updated, this does not always prove to be fruitful.
Throughout the 12 month period, press advertisements are also placed in the West Australian Newspaper.
At the closure of the 12 month consultation period, all submissions on the topic are assessed and the MCB then applies to the Minister for Local Government for permission to proceed with the renewal.
Implementation is undertaken with the utmost care and dignity by trained MCB staff.
All headstones in good condition are retained, either in situ or as near as possible to the original location. In newer memorial gardens, retained and relocated headstones are respectfully integrated within the new environment as a landscaping feature.
Prior to removal, every headstone is digitally photographed and the subsequent image and inscription are permanently stored within the MCB database. This ensures maintenance of the historical evidence and information and is a route of access for future generations.
The MCB also maintains a special Memorial Book for each section that is renewed. This Memorial Book details all the names of the deceased, their ages and date of death.
What happens below the surface?
The diagram to the left (click on image for larger view) shows the below-ground view of a renewal area.
It is important to note that the burial in the new grave is placed within a space that was originally occupied by the footpath between the existing graves. New graves have minimal encroachment on existing graves on each side. This means that the remains in the original grave are COMPLETELY UNDISTURBED. This is due to the fact that this encroachment on either side does not enter the centre of the grave where interments are positioned.
This innovative approach to Cemetery Renewal has allowed the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board to continue providing burial facilities at Karrakatta Cemetery whilst concurrently ensuring a sustainable future for the site.
How can I find out if a family grave is located in a proposed renewal area and what are my options?
The renewal program is being undertaken in stages according to a series of managed time frames. Some areas of Karrakatta have already been renewed and the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board has developed proposed Cemetery Renewal plans for the forthcoming 25 years.
A two-sided map of Karrakatta Cemetery with the various Cemetery Renewal areas highlighted and the associated time frames, can be downloaded by clicking below. We recommend that you print this map.
If you know the grave number and location of the grave/s in question, you should be able to see if it is within a proposed renewal area by cross referencing it with the map.
If you do not know the location of the grave/s in question, you will need to perform an online location search. Please click here to search the Cemetery Records System. Once you have found the grave location, you will need to cross-reference it with the Karrakatta Cemetery map above to see if the area in question falls within a proposed Cemetery Renewal area.
Alternatively, you may choose to telephone or visit our offices at Karrakatta Cemetery or send an email search request to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please allow 4 working days for a reply).
If emailing, please be sure to include as many details as possible regarding the deceased and also a contact telephone number should our staff need to get in touch.
Options for Affected Graves
The main options open to you if a grave is located within a renewal area are as follows:
- Repurchase the Grant of Right of Burial for the grave. This option is only available in certain circumstances and is dependent on the proposed future use of the renewed section (i.e. memorial gardens, burial section or site facility). Repurchasing the Grant allows for the grave to be reused as a family grave and, for many families, establishes a site of cross-generational import.
- Make a submission for retaining the grave for historical and specific posterity reasons. This will be assessed by the Monument Assessment and Advisory Committee. Click here for a guide to making a submission to the MAAC.
- Have the headstone relocated within the renewed area.
- Have the headstone relocated to another family grave in Karrakatta.
- Purchase an adjoining new grave within the renewed area and transfer the existing headstone to the new grave.
- Establish a new memorial within the newly improved landscape.
- Collect and remove the headstone from the cemetery.
Through our Client Services division, the MCB welcomes the opportunity to discuss options and to ensure you have a clear understanding of the renewal process. We look forward to speaking with you.
Our goal is to ensure the future of Karrakatta as an operating cemetery.
War Graves & Cemetery Renewal
The MCB works closely with the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) in undertaking ALL renewal programs at Karrakatta.
The OAWG has provided the following information regarding Cemetery Renewal:
"As an agent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the OAWG within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, is responsible for the care and maintenance of all CWGC war cemeteries and individual official commemorations within Australia and the region. Official commemorations include graves, plaques and memorials to the missing.
Separate from these World War responsibilities on behalf of the CWGC, the OAWG is responsible for the official commemoration of all Australians who have died in all our wars and other military operations. Australian War Dead from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are interred in general cemeteries in Western Australia, some of them in Karrakatta. Some Australian War Dead from Vietnam are buried in the Perth War Cemetery.
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. The war period for the First World War is 4 August 1914 to 31 August 1921. The war period for the Second World War is September 1939 to 31 December 1947. The periods of other wars, conflicts and military operations are as specified by the Department of Defence.
OAWG is also responsible for the official post-war commemoration of those eligible Australian veterans whose deaths are accepted as being due to their war service or at the time of death were either:
- In receipt of a Special Rate (T&PI) Pension, an Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA), a Temporary Special Rate Pension (TSR or T&TI) or an Intermediate Rate Pension (INT) at the time of death and where the veteran has seen war service;
- Multiple amputees on Section 27.1 maximum pension rate where war service has been proven;
- Ex-prisoners of war, or
- Recipients of the Victoria Cross.
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.
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.
Where possible official commemorations will be retained in situ however may be relocated due to renewal plans. In the event that official commemorations may be affected by renewal plans, MCB will liaise with OAWG to develop a response. Options may include the incorporation of official commemorations within design considerations for the renewal program or for transfer of the remains and official commemoration to a new grave location. Each case is considered individually and the outcome determined by the applicable laws and regulations of the State of Western Australia and after reasonable efforts have been made to inform a member of the family concerned."
If further information is required regarding official commemorations and cemetery renewal, please contact the MCB or the OAWG at email@example.com
The Perth War Cemetery and Garden of Remembrance is located on Smyth Road, Nedlands, Western Australia.
The Metropolitan Cemeteries Board can provide photos of the memorial or headstone of a loved one. Click here for details of our Photo Request Service.
Karrakatta Cemetery Contact Details
For all enquiries, please contact us as follows:
Telephone: +61 1300 793 109
Fax: + 61 8 9384 9273
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (please allow 4 working days for a reply)
PO Box 53