Discover the history and beauty within the grounds of Rookwood Cemetery
Rookwood Cemetery is a fascinating place of historical significance and natural beauty. The oldest, largest and most multicultural working cemetery in Australia, it spans an area greater than the Sydney CBD. The cemetery is the resting place for more than one million people, including many notable Australians such as John Fairfax and Louisa Lawson.
Officially named Rookwood Necropolis (City of the Dead), the cemetery began operating in 1867 when the government purchased 200 acres of land at Haslem’s Creek. Following the passing of the Necropolis Act of 1867, the first burial reportedly took place when John Whalan, an 18-year-old pauper, was laid to rest. The site was named Rookwood after residents of Haslem’s Creek become concerned about their suburb’s close association with a cemetery - Rookwood was identified as a pleasant and appropriate name, reportedly because there were many crows (also known as rooks) in the neighbourhood.
Reflecting the cultural diversity of wider Sydney, the cemetery caters to the vast majority of the city’s multicultural communities and is a place of rest, research and reflection dating back to Victorian times.
Rookwood General Cemetery was established to manage Rookwood Cemetery in 2012 after significant reforms to the NSW Cemetery industry, which united Rookwood’s former management Trusts, including Anglican, Jewish, Muslim Trusts, General and Independent Trusts.
Take a guided history tour and educational talk
Members of the community can learn about Rookwood’s history and cultural significance by taking part in a history tour with Rookwood’s Operations General Manager, Mark Bundy. Visitors will learn a wealth of information about the historic site, tour its vast grounds and gardens, and view the different architecture styles of its buildings and memorial sites. There will also be a fascinating discussion about how burial practices have changed over time, and the different religious and cultural burial practices of Rookwood’s communities.
Points of interest include:
Mortuary Station historic footings, the remains of Rookwood’s primary station which was used to receive the deceased from Sydney CBD from 1867 until 1948.
Circle of Love, a special area within the cemetery that honours children.
Martyrs Memorial, a tribute to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
The Greek Church, Australia’s only Greek church located within a cemetery.
Chapel and Mausoleum of Eternal Rest, Rookwood’s recently refurbished mausoleum that boasts amazing views across the cemetery.
The Cottage, the original office of the former Independent Trust.
Honouring notable Australians
Over the last 150 years, many notable individuals who are recognised as contributing to Australian history in significant and different ways, have been laid to rest within the grounds of Rookwood. These notables include:
John Fairfax, the pioneer newspaper publisher who established the Sydney Herald.
David Jones, founder of the David Jones department store chain.
Israel Chapman, a convict who became the first Australian police detective.
Louisa Lawson, renowned suffragette and newspaper proprietor who was also the mother of Henry Lawson, noted Australian short story writer and balladist.
Mei Quang Tart, the much-loved Chinese businessman and philanthropist who became renowned for opening the Elite Hall tea rooms, the city’s society meeting place of the time.
Peter Dodds McCormick, composer of Advance Australia Fair.
Genealogy and research using smart phone GPS mapping technology
Rookwood caters to the vast majority of religious and cultural groups within the Sydney region. With its records dating back more than 150 years, its historic data is one of its most valuable assets. However, due to its sheer size, it has historically been difficult to navigate the cemetery when searching for interred friends and family, let alone accurately pinpointing the exact location of an individual grave or monument.
Recently, Rookwood General Cemetery introduced a cloud-based mapping system that enables the public to quickly and easily search for the name and exact location of a grave. The initiative has been a huge undertaking for the organisation, with dedicated staff spending two years meticulously sifting through and cataloguing more than 2.9 million records and entering them into an intuitive GPS tracking program that provides guided directions to a specific grave site using Google Maps.
Drones were used to capture aerial images of the cemetery, which have been overlaid with images from Rookwood’s section maps. These maps have then been linked back to the records for each plot. The initiative allows anyone to view the data online, regardless of whether they live locally or overseas, using a computer, tablet or smart phone. Google Maps will then provide directions from wherever they are located, making it an ideal tool for anyone undertaking genealogy research.
This new technology is a proactive initiative by Rookwood General Cemetery, in its efforts to encourage the broader community to visit and learn more about the cemetery by exploring its Victorian-era heritage, beautiful gardens and unique surroundings.
73 Years Young & Independent
This fund has been granting funeral benefits for over 70 years. We used to be industry based and getting calls from the families of ex members for claims. We quickly realized that there was a demand for affordable funeral cover for retirees. On top of our discretionary fund The M Mortality Fund was formed in 2000 and began as a funeral savings fund. Contributions accrued compound interest and we have been able to maintain a decent rate at 5%. Being a not for profit the gains have been put back into the fund and the fund has been granted funeral contribution fund status through the Department of Fair Trading.
We then began to get a different set of enquiries: What if I haven’t saved enough for my funeral? That is when we got the members underwritten by an insurance company and gave members a choice of combining savings with Funeral Insurance. Our cover is a group policy making it cheaper and level premiums meaning the fees don’t increase.
I am happy to talk all day about the features of our fund and am happy to oblige if you call us on 1300 327 747
''Be realistic is my advice. If you have set aside more than you need then that will go to your estate. ''
This editorial is however more than just a straight advert for our fund I want to bring to you the of benefit of 30 years of experience that I have in this area. Firstly, everyone’s approach to planning for a funeral is different. Many clients I have spoken to are quite frank about their needs with many saying they want a basic funeral. Whatever your denomination or taste there is a cost and that increases over time. Be realistic is my advice. If you have set aside more than you need then that will go to your estate.
It is the people who give life to a fund like this. They are alpha and the omega. Take Keith (not his real name) member no. 1 ; he knew a good thing when he saw it and joined himself and his wife. He was an astute administrator who had retied and kept up the retired men’s association. Naturally he liked a beer and a chat but there was more to him, he was one of nature’s gentlemen and the church was standing room only at his funeral.
One of the observations I made when visiting the homes of grieving families is the immediate aftermath of one’s life gives a sense of peace or distress. The only way I can explain it graphically is the idea of the wake of a boat can be liked to a human’s wake. Are we sailing through calmly or thrashing about causing a stir.
Then there is member 4011, let’s call her Maggie, She had definite ideas about how much she wanted to spend on her funeral and where the proceeds should go, her grandchildren. She took out the insurance for $10,000 and savings the gamblers out there would term it an ‘each way’ bet. We even gave her a will kit.
When her daughter rang I paused for a moment to consider the transient nature of life and then went into service mode as I explained options to a grieving family member. I am pleased to say Maggie got to within $100 of her target.
Did I mention the transient nature of existence. I would like you keep this in mind as you are going to purchase the means to put a punctuation mark at a significant interval of your life. This fund was set when people understood the principle of mutuality. These days it would be closer to the 80/20 rule. It is arbitrary but what is implies is that the bulk of people support the people that need to use the service now. I only mention this because I see how people have come to have certain expectations when they enquire about a service and this one is no different.
''This fund was set when people understood the principle of mutuality
We are here for the long term, it is no secret but often neglected that the earlier you start to plan for any economic purchase you have an advantage. We are finding that many people in their 70s are enquiring and we are proud that we can actually offer an economic solution to their request. People still think that there is room to move in trying to bring the price down. However, with limited time, the amount of options available to you are reduced. Even then, if people realised the power of compound interest, they would be far better off investing in the savings fund.
The word that is not used much anymore that applies here is dignity. When you look into its origins, it comes from deigned which is to be worthy of. This is at the heart of what is perhaps a very old fashioned idea, that no matter who you are, you are who you are, you are worthy of living a life and ending that life in a dignified manner. I guess the final example I will give you comes from a comedian called Ben Elton, where he had his main character explain that a thousand dollar meal (don’t be alarmed, some people pay this much for a meal at a benefit) is not a hundred times better than a ten dollar meal, which can be still found in some pubs and clubs. The philosophy behind the services at clubs is that again, the many contribute through memberships and other activities, so that services like reasonable dinners can be served.
This takes me back to my work in the discretionary mutual fund. There was a system of grants that were standardised, and there was an option to request a separate grant for hardship. I bring you the case in point of one of my unforgettable clients, let’s call him Fred. My first observation is that war heroes are not all statuesque. Fred was all of 5’2 and he had displayed heroic efforts in no less than three different arenas. I first met him over a claim for assistance, due to a storm. He began to confide in me more and more, and eventually let me in on a problem that he had with fainting. On one eventful visit after he had exhausted many of his medical options, I took him to the hospital to be further examined. It turned out to be a brain tumour that had been overlooked because it was behind a fold in his brain. That was the last time that I saw him completely lucid. Eventually he passed away and we paid the funeral benefit. The family appealed to me to raise more funds, as they wanted him buried close by and had exhausted all of his cash by paying out the mortgage. I raised half of the necessary funds and began petitioning all of the different community agencies he had been volunteering for. In the end, it was the church that came up with the rest of the money, and he received the burial that he deserved as a highly effective member of the community.
''no matter who you are, you are who you are, you are worthy of living a life and ending that life in a dignified manner
So the things I want you to consider, are that when you contribute to a mutual organisation, don’t feel that you are being taken advantage of. For your turn will surely come and the strength of the organisation will ensure that it is still there at the time that you need it. I also want you to think about what it is that you really want for yourself. Because when you know what you want, the means becomes a lot easier.