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Waanyarra Historic Cemetery

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Waanyarra Cemetery Road, Waanyarra VIC 3551

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  • Educational
  • Fascinating graveyard filled with both marked and unmarked graves
  • Interesting information signs
  • Very close to Waanyarra Recreation Site for camping, picnicing, BBQ and walking.
Located not far from Dunolly, the Waanyarra Historic Cemetery offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. This cemetery has been beautifully restored and features a gorgeous picket fence, gate, and signage.

The oldest surviving marked grave in this cemetery is from 1859, although there are many unmarked graves scattered through the grounds. 

The Waanyarra Historic Cemetery lies just down the road from the Waanyarra Recreation Site, a peaceful camping and picnic ground. Also not to be missed is Morton's Welcome Inn, an 1850's stone building in remarkable condition just a bit further down the road.

The following text is printed on a beautifully designed signboard at the Waanyarra Cemetery.

The first rush to this area occurred in 1853 and brought with it deaths from mining accidents, illness and disease. The oldest surviving marked grave in the historic cemetery is that of John Gibson Brown, who died on October 10th, 1859. The recorded history of this rich gold-mining region indicates, however, that many burials must have taken place prior to this date.

Initially the cemetery was situated to the south of this site, but seasonal flooding of Jones' Creek resulted in it being moved to this higher ground. When Phillip Chauncey surveyed this area in 1861 a reserve for a cemetery had been marked out on the north side of the Dunolly to Tarnagulla road, west of this site but it was not favoured by local residents and was never used.

Chauncey officially named the area Waanyarra during his survey, replacing the name "Beverly" chosen by Governer LaTrobe. "Beverly" was used only by a few of the early goldseekers and was quickly forgotten. This eastern section of the Waanyarra area, and the creek running through it, became known as Jones' Creek, after Charles Jones, an early prospector.

Before the introduction of wooden coffins it was usual to enclose a body between two sheets of bark for burial. Local identity Mr Cheetham is credited with making the first wooden coffin used here. It was made for the burial of a child.

In April 1871 a public meeting was held at Morton's "Welcome Inn" where the first Trustees for the various sections of this cemetery were elected.

They were:

Thomas Leach (Anglican)
Thomas Boan (Hebrew)
James Gourley (Presbyterian)
Michael Morton (Roman Catholic)
William Holt (Wesleyans)

These people organised the burials and kept the cemetery in good condition for many years. It was totally funded by public subscription, but as time passed and the population of the area declined, money dried up and public interest in maintaining the cemetery waned. This made the task of the Trustees very difficult and they redesigned their positions. A new team of Trustees unsuccessfully attempted to rekindle community support and the cemetery closed officially in 1891.

Despite its official closure, local families continued to use the cemetery for many years without permission, preferring to be buried in family graves in the district in which they had lived for most of their lives.

As far as can be ascertained, Mrs Deborah Chapple (nee Corrie) is the only person to have gained official permission to be buried here since its official closure. Debbie, as she was affectionately known, had been a tireless worker for the maintenance of this cemetery.

The shire of Bet Bet became the Trustee of the Waanyarra cemetery in 1965 and receives annual grants for its maintenance.

Since 1988 an informal group, The Families and Friends of Waanyarra, has dedicated itself to maintaining the historical significance of the area. A bronze plaque recording the names of those buried here without a marker was placed here by the group who have also cooperated with the Tarnagulla Recreation Parks Committee, the Bet Bet Shire and its Development and Tourism Committee in the erection of this signboard and in the renewal of the front fence and gates.


  • Many cemeteries in the goldfields were established in the early-mid 19th century. Walking through the historic cemeteries of the area is like taking a walk through time.


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