THE historic Waterfall General “Garrawarra” cemetery has been recommended for listing on the State Heritage Register.
At its meeting on 14 July Wollongong City Council also began moves to establish a Friends of Waterfall General Cemetery group and will seek State government support to create a legal access to the site as well as funding toward an initial program of works to allow for future management and conservation of the site outlined in the Conservation Management Plan.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the cemetery is an important historic site, not only for Wollongong, but for the State of NSW, as it tells the history of tuberculosis, about the impacts of this disease on sufferers, their families, and communities and of the struggle of the health system, leading doctors and government, in dealing with a contagious disease that presented a significant threat to our Society.
“The cemetery is the resting place for more than 2,000 people aged from just weeks old to 103 who succumbed to this disease between 1909 and 1949,” he said.
Council will now work toward the appropriate conservation of the site, with the goal of allowing for controlled public access so that it can be properly appreciated as a reminder of the period of history.
“Just because it is in a remote part of the city doesn’t mean it is any less important than say an early cemetery associated with the forebears of Wollongong.”
Between 1909 and 1949, the Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery received more than 2,000 burials. On September 1 1967, the Cemetery was placed under the custodianship of Wollongong City Council. This was 18 years after the last burial on the site, and followed a period of minimal maintenance by the Department of Health.
In 1966, a new State Act transferred responsibility for most General Cemeteries across the State to Local Government. For Wollongong, the transfer included four other active general cemeteries: Helensburgh, Scarborough, Bulli and Wollongong.The handover of the abandoned site appears to have been a legal transfer only. There is no evidence that Council ever took an active role in maintaining the site. Records relating to the site were never handed over to Council and Council has no legal access to the site.Council will write to the NSW Premier, the NSW Minister for the Illawarra, and the Member for Heathcote seeking State government funding support for the initial works required to clear the site of deadwood, re-establish a central access path, and to make the site safe, so that regular public open days can be held at the bush cemetery.
Council will also have to negotiate with the Crown Lands Division of the Department of Trade and Investment to create an easement or right of way to access the site. Access would be required so that Council can begin works toward the management of the site.
For more information call Council on (02) 4227 7111.
You can also view the film “Not Forgotten: The Story of Waterfall General Cemetery”, prepared to support the Community consultation process, from Council’s YouTube site at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgx9vmnz3Po