SUMMARY OF WORK OF PRINCES HILL COMMUNITY CENTRE GREENING THE CEMETERY GROUP (MELBOURNE GENERAL CEMETERY) NOVEMBER 2021 – AUGUST 2022-08-24
PURPOSE: To provide a brief overview of the first year of the work of the Greening the Cemetery Group under the terms of the Princes Hill Community Centre MOU with the Melbourne General Cemetery.
BACKGROUND: During COVID lockdown many North Carlton, Parkville and Princes Hill residents discovered the Melbourne General Cemetery as a pleasant area in which to walk which enabled social distancing, particularly when Princes Park was crowded. There was growing awareness of the lack of plants in the cemetery as well as an appreciation of the beauty of the cemetery and its potential as a garden cemetery and a haven for birds and small animals. There is a worldwide trend to use volunteer ‘friends’ groups to maintain cemeteries with many beautiful examples (e.g. Christchurch, London, USA). A group of volunteers came together under the auspice of the Princes Hill Community Centre which is able to provide occupational health and safety training, insurance and has the capacity to promote a gardening program to the local community. In September 2021 a MOU was signed between PHCC and MCG, and the first official gardening working bee by the greening group commenced in November 2021.
HOW THE GREENING GROUP WORKS:
Under guidance from John Wright the group has met from approximately 10 am to 12.30 pm on the last Friday of the month to carry out work in the designated areas. It was decided to target areas where there will be maximum impact for the visitor walking down the main paths and roads. To date these have been the area surrounding the rotunda near the north gate and part of the northern fence area behind the work shed, the area surrounding the Dawson Monument (both to the East and West) and the area immediately inside the East Gate from Lygon St. In addition to planting the group has mulched and pruned the indigenous shrubs to the southeast of the Dawson monument.
John Wright has liaised with the working group convener of the day (David James or in his absence Prue Gill) and supplied mulch in the areas where work is planned and also supplies wheel barrows and shovels and rakes.
The gardeners bring newspaper to lay under the mulch and have supplied their own plants grown at home.
The number of participants varies from 12 to 20.
In 2021 the group was visited by Darryn McDonald for morning tea and discussion. In July 2022 the group was happy to have an impromptu visit from the SMCT arborist, Chris Hewitt who provided a tour of some of the cemetery’s more interesting trees and planted two new native trees – an acacia and a native frangipani, chosen for their ability to withstand climate changes and for the pattern of their root system. In March the PHCC organised a ‘potting up morning’ where plants were divided, cuttings prepared and a large number of good hardy plants were established for planting throughout the year.
Early in 2022 the group had an interesting historically flavoured visit to Fawkner Cemetery led by historian David Nichols from the University of Melbourne.
CONTRIBUTION TO MGC
In 2022 so far there is estimated to be over 200 hours of voluntary labour, several hundred good free plants supplied but perhaps most importantly this work is greatly appreciated by the public who are excited to see the improvements and make positive comments when they see the work being done. The gardening friends get much enjoyment from their work, as well as a rewarding sense of community.
The August meeting was attended by the horticulturalist Helen Tuton. She introduced the group to a new phase of work in the cemetery. She outlined the new cemetery cultivation plan which will include many indigenous grasses and middle height plants and bushes which will increase biodiversity in the cemetery. In future the cemetery will supply the plants for working bees from its thoroughly researched planting plan. On this occasion further work was done weeding, mulching and planting in the area southeast of Dawson monument (babies area). In future the main area allocated for the group will be the Anglican area behind the workshed at the northern gate. In general Helen Tuton will attend working bees and/or pass on directions to the working bee coordinator. The working group was very excited by Helen Tuton’s presentation and looks forward to seeing the introduction of significant areas of indigenous plants.