Project Cultivate

Enhancing the natural environment of our historical cemetery sites

The Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) is undertaking horticultural works aimed at enhancing the natural landscapes of our historical cemetery sites.

Known as Project Cultivate, the works involve planting locally native plants and grasses to revitalise cemetery sites while complementing surrounding monuments, pathways and facilities. Carried out in consultation with stakeholders including families, the local community and Traditional Owners, the project is succeeding in establishing a beautiful biodiverse environment that can be sustainably maintained.

Update on the pilot at Melbourne General Cemetery

An exploratory pilot at Melbourne General Cemetery (MGC) commenced in May 2023 with the laying of 1,400 cubic metres of mulch. This was followed by the planting of more than 120,000 locally native grasses, wildflowers and groundcovers, which was completed in November 2023. These works have benefited the cemetery in many ways, including:

  • 30% reduction in herbicide use across the site
  • 3°C reduction in ambient air temperature around mulched areas
  • Improved soil quality and reduction in erosion, runoff and water pooling
  • Visible increases in biodiversity, including increased activity from beneficial native insects, worms, fungi and birds.
  • This initial phase has resulted in 31.29% of suitable Project Cultivate areas mulched and planted.

ABC's Costa Georgiadis Celebrating Project Cultivate

Future works

After the success of this first pilot phase, mulching has now commenced in a second area. This accounts for an additional 26.94% of suitable Project Cultivate areas. In March 2024, we will begin planting this newly mulched area with an additional 150,000 indigenous plants.

Once complete, the works will have covered a total of 58.23% of suitable space with a total of 227,000 indigenous plants. SMCT plans on mulching and planting the remaining 41.78% of suitable areas from July 2024, with completion by June 2025. Our Project Cultivate pilot program at MGC has allowed us to develop a blueprint for similar environmental projects at other cemetery locations……watch this space!

A brief timeline of what’s been happening on the grounds

Early 2023

Holders of Rights in areas included in the pilot, along with neighbouring properties, received a notification of the works and an invitation to provide feedback.

A first wave of research was conducted, including interviews with stakeholders and users of the site, with respondents rating the proposed changes an impressive 8.1 out of 9, demonstrating positive community feedback on the proposed works.

May 2023
Intimate Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country held with Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, to strengthen our relationship with each other and the land we care for together. We began laying 1,400m3 of mulch – the equivalent of 14,000 wheelbarrows worth of mulch to improve soil quality on site.
August 2023
Began planting more than 120,000 indigenous grasses, flowers and groundcovers of 19 different species throughout the cemetery grounds, at a rate of seven plants per square metre. These locally native plants are helping to minimise erosion, suppress weeds, and create a natural biodiverse environment.
October 2023

Conducted planting days with community groups, schools and local MPs
November 2023
Planting process in the first pilot area completed with mulching in the next area commencing.
December 2023
Plants can be seen visibly thriving and flowering on site.
February 2024
An event was held at Melbourne General Cemetery with community, Traditional Owners and key project partners to celebrate the successful pilot. Attendees were treated to presentations from SMCT, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, and Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis who expressed his passionate support of the project. The event included a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, and guests given a Kangaroo Grass tubestock to take Project Cultivate into their own backyards.
March 2024
Planting to commence in the second area of the project.

Learn about our community engagement.

Learn about our soil improvement journey at MGC

Visitors can continue to access Melbourne General Cemetery throughout the pilot and will be provided with detours for any temporary path closures while works are underway.

About the project

Click each fact sheet to view

Have your say

We want to know how our communities want to see, feel, visit and experience our historical cemetery spaces and will use this research to guide our long-term planning. We encourage you to have your say and complete the survey.

For more information, please contact us at

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