Observations of damaged headstones at Toowong Cemetery have raised questions about who is responsible for fixing them after some locals called on authorities to intervene in repairing them.
With a history dating back to 1875, Toowong Cemetery is now already home to around 117,000 graves. Many of the headstones at the cemetery have fallen and a number of the grave surrounds have collapsed.
Finding graves at the cemetery can also be extremely difficult. Since most of the graves at the cemetery are quite old, the majority of headstones do not have numbers markings on them. This is due to the fact that the practice of marking numbers on headstones was not introduced until the late 1900s.
Under the Queensland Cemeteries Act 1865, the burial rights holder and their descendants are responsible for maintaining individual graves.
There are locals who believe this law should be updated; however, others believe taxpayers’ money would be put to better use providing housing for the ‘living’ instead of being spent on graves.
Jack Sim, a historian and member of Friends of Toowong Cemetery, noted that repairing and maintaining headstones can be very expensive, highlighting the fact that the cemetery is home not just to hundreds but thousands of headstones needing repair.
Mr Sim, who is famous for his ghost tours at Toowong Cemetery and other cemeteries across the city, said in 2021, that restoring deteriorating burial places would require Brisbane City Council to have an emergency fund, since the cost of repinning a headstone is estimated to be around $3,000.
Meanwhile, Council has made it clear that maintenance of headstones and plaques, including the restoration of old and dilapidated headstones, is the responsibility of the family and descendants.
BCC currently maintains 12 cemeteries across the city and this includes Toowong Cemetery.
Whilst Council is working with community groups like Friends of Toowong Cemetery to improve the cemetery’s condition, they are only responsible for maintaining the cemetery grounds.
Council’s responsibility for the cemetery, according to law, only includes mowing, whipper snipping, tree care, topping-up dirt levels in graves, lifting and levelling subsided plaques, and cleaning-up old and unwanted flowers off gravesites.