Opening our sites for Open House Melbourne

01 August 2023

On the last weekend in July we opened our gates to more than 450 guests to explore and uncover the hidden histories of three of our heritage sites as part of Open House Melbourne.

Visitors enjoyed self-guided and guided tours of the gatehouse and notables at Melbourne General Cemetery, and further exploration and tours conducted by our Friends Groups at Brighton and St Kilda cemeteries.

The Northside lawn set up for Open House Melbourne at Melbourne General Cemetery

Exploring Melbourne General Cemetery

Learning about the historic gatehouse, which is usually closed to the public, was a major drawcard for visitors to Melbourne General Cemetery. Rebuilt in 1934 and 1935, the gatehouse was reconstructed with materials from the previous entrance lodges originally built in the 1850s. It is still a functioning workspace, but the last gatehouse family left the building in 1997.

As well as joining guided tours, community members explored how heritage and historical sites such could be used in a modern era. Discussions ranged from what sort of activities could take place, the perception of cemeteries as public spaces and how organisations can encourage visitors of all ages to historical sites.

Visitors at Melbourne General Cemetery

Partners the Museum of Chinese Australian History displayed information and research as part of the Chinese Melbourne Project. The project encourages sharing of histories and stories from the Chinese community living and working in and around Melbourne for over 150 years.

Highlighting our commitment to sustainability, we spoke with community about Project Cultivate, a pilot program to enhance horticultural standards through sustainable planting of native grasses and wildflowers. Following a digital self-guided tour, visitors could see where over 14,000 wheelbarrows of mulch has been spread, ready for 127,000 native and indigenous plants in the coming months.

To support awareness of the cemetery’s diverse social and cultural heritage, visitors also explored the site using our notables brochure.

We thank all those community members who shared their thoughts on the role cemeteries play in community storytelling and placemaking.

The support of friends

Holding successful Open House Melbourne tours across multiple SMCT sites is only possible due to the support and expertise of our Friends groups.

The Brighton Cemetorians, led by Lois Comeadow, opened Brighton General Cemetery on Saturday 29 July. Led by Elisa Buckle, there were tours through the Board Room and Clergy Room. These tours were booked out multiple days before the event, however self-guided tours were also available. The Brighton Cemetorians were extremely pleased with the day, and grateful to the volunteers who helped out.

A tour group at Brighton General Cemetery

Tours at St Kilda Cemetery were held by Gabriel Hermes, and included stories about people who have contributed to the city’s architecture and built environment, as well as information about the unique role played by cemeteries within cities. Friends of St Kilda Cemetery supported the cemetery’s opening on Sunday 30 July.

We would like to thank both of our Friends groups as well as the 20 people who volunteered and worked across the weekend for their support.

SMCT cares for nine sites across south-east Melbourne in perpetuity for the Victorian community. These sites are public spaces and are free to visit during opening hours.

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