Cemetery Conservation

Cemeteries are an important part of Australia’s past. The monuments of our ancestors provide a history of the nation’s growth and a valuable insight into its development.

Cemeteries may be the only place where a person’s life is recorded. Many cemeteries are examples of formal garden design with landscape elements seldom seen outside public gardens. Unusual examples of art and craft are also found in the design of many monuments which portray views of death often quite different from current customs. Recent sections of old cemeteries and even burial grounds with no ‘old’ monuments also provide valuable social documents of history and changes in taste, custom and design.
All cemeteries have social and historic value and potential cultural significance. A cemetery is generally considered to be of cultural significance if it has historic, social, artistic, religious, genealogical, creative/ technological, landscape, botanical or representative significance. Some cemeteries are significant to the nation at large, some to a religious or ethnic group or a region, some mainly to a single family. Conservation of cemeteries means retaining this significance.

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Cemetery Masterlist

In 1981, the National Trust of Australia (NSW) set a goal to record all known burial sites in NSW. Our aim was to identify, document and assess the significance of over 4000 burial places and to understand and record their historical and cultural value for the community, indeed for the nation, and to promote their conservation.

Search the Masterlist

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Guidelines for Cemetery Conservation

This Cemeteries Guidelines Paper aims to provide best practice practical advice combined with clear policy recommendations on conservation in cemeteries. The paper deals with burials related to European settlement, including general cemeteries, churchyards, private or family cemeteries and lone graves.

Download the Guidelines

Cemeteries Conservation Committee

The Cemeteries Conservation Committee covers various fields including archaeology, architecture, cemetery management, landscape design, art history, genealogy, materials conservation, stone masonry and town planning.

The Committee meets regularly to consider specific issues and to assess the cultural significance of burial grounds. For some years it has conducted regular inspections of cemeteries as part of a state wide survey under a grant from the NSW Heritage Office.

The Committee aims to:

  • promote recognition, protection and conservation of cemeteries in New South Wales;
  • identify, document and assess the significance of the more than 3,000 cemeteries in New South Wales;
  • recommend appropriate cemeteries for inclusion in the National Trust Register, Local Environment Plans and the State Heritage Register as appropriate;
  • provide expert technical advice and assistance on matters relating to cemetery conservation and management.