Melbourne General Cemetery is one of the most important cemeteries in Australia.
It was established with trustees on 27 March 1852 and opened on 1 June 1853. It was the first modern cemetery in Victoria in that it was designed like a large public park with wide wavy paths, separate religious areas, gate lodges, rotundas, chapels, evergreen trees and shrubs. The designer was architect/surveyor Albert Purchas, who also served as secretary/manager for many years. The first burial was that of John Burnett (1853).
The cemetery was closed for new burials in 1904, and reopened in 1927. It was extended by 2.5 hectares (6 acres) in 1933. The gate lodge, now administration building, was rebuilt on the present site in 1934-35. It was largely made from the materials of two demolished entrance buildings built in the western part of the cemetery in the 1850s. All other gate lodges were demolished many years ago. The oldest surviving buildings are the Jewish chapel of 1854 and the Catholic mortuary chapel of the 1870s and 1880s.
There are about 300,000 burials in the cemetery. The site covers 43 hectares (106 acres). The construction of three mausolea from the 1990s has given the cemetery new life.
The cemetery boasts a very large number of notable interments:
- Governor-General Sir Isaacs Isaacs
- Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies, Sir John Gorton and James Scullin (and a symbolic memorial to Harold Holt)
- Governor Sir Charles Hotham
- Premiers Duncan Gillies, JG Francis, Sir John O’Shanassy, James Service, James Patterson
- Burke and Wills – Ill-fated explorers
- Derrimut, Aboriginal tribal chief (Bunurung tribe)
- Lady Janet Clarke – Society woman and philanthropist
- Mietta O’Donnell – Restaurateur and writer
- Walter Lindrum – Billiards player
- Greg Ham – Musician (‘Men at Work’)