Rachel Ng

East Perth Cemeteries hosted an Open Day on Sunday the 16th of April in hopes of increasing the public awareness of, and engagement with, the historical landmark. East Perth Cemeteries, Perth’s first colonial burial ground, opened its doors for free as part of the Australian Heritage Festival and the Boorloo Heritage Festival last April, which educates people about Perth’s culture, heritage, and history.

The cemetery is situated on Whadjuk Noongar Country in the Martellup area. From 1829 til the Cemeteries’ closure in 1899, they contained more than 10 000 burials, ranging from the wealthy and prominent, to the poor and unknown. Due to decades of decay and vandalism, only 800 grave markers survive today. Visitors participated in volunteer-led tours of the eight cemeteries, which include a Chinese Cemetery, and cemeteries belonging to religious denominations such as Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist.

Margaret, a volunteer at the Cemeteries, sees the site as a museum that holds stories of Perth’s first settlers. “Many of these people would’ve been convicts, the guards of convicts, or free settlers. Some headstones are a memory of families which places in Perth are named after, like Hester Avenue and Trigg Beach,” she said.

Marketing and Events Officer Milly Bartlett said the Cemeteries are an “incredible window” into life during the early settlement of Perth. “It’s a really beautiful sight to walk through. We had people leaving here saying, ‘Wow, life was really hard. We don’t realise how lucky we are today.’ . . . They increase our understanding of what life was like, which helps us learn more about and appreciate our lives today.”

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you enjoy writing, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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