Cemeteries could be turned into parks


p2529 Stuart Town Cemetery 430By KIERAN FINNANE
Changes are afoot to the way Territorians bury their dead. The government is proposing to modernise the Cemeteries Act 1952. Among several new measures, the legislation will allow for new methods for the disposal of human remains and applications to use closed cemeteries as parkland.
Right: Historic grave in Stuart Town Cemetery. Photo from Town Council website. 
The new legislation will authorise disposal by “alkaline hydrolysis”. The process is also called “bio-cremation” because it produces fewer carbon emissions and pollutants than cremation, according to the Wikipedia entry under this heading.  It explains that the body is placed in a pressure vessel that is then filled with a mixture of water and lye, and heated to a temperature around 160 °C (320 °F), but at an elevated pressure, which prevents boiling.
The Town Council, which takes care of cemeteries in Alice Springs, heard about the proposed charges from Solomon Gaturu, from the NT Department of Housing and Community development.
Mr Gaturu said alkaline hydrolysis uses only a quarter of the energy that cremation uses. Facilities providing for this method of disposal would have to be licensed.
Councillor Jimmy Cocking asked Mr Gaturu about the regulation of cremation emissions: would there would be anything in the legislative review to deal with this issue?
Mr Gaturu  took that question on notice. Cr Cocking understands there are no regulatory arrangements in the NT for control of emissions from cremation.
A proposed measure that could prove to be controversial is the conversion to parkland of closed cemeteries, where burials are no longer taking place.
The only such cemetery at present in Alice Springs is the tiny Stuart Town Cemetery in George Crescent. Its location, size and historic character probably make it an unlikely candidate for parkland but then all cemeteries have historic character.
Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni asked if Heritage Act would override applications for parklands.
Mr Gaturu said it might.
An exposure draft Bill, allowing for comment, is expected by the middle of year, he said.
There was no other noteworthy news from last night’s Town Council meeting. No debate, no questions without notice.
Cr Eli Melky was present but scarcely participated in the meeting, unusual for him. This included declining to say anything at all about his activities over the past month.
Crs Marli Banks and Catherine Satour were both absent, on personal leave.


  1. If Council is serious about reformatting our cemeteries, perhaps they could also look at the current restrictions on the height of headstones. Unless there has been a change, headstones are currently limited to one meter in height. Why?
    If a family is wealthy enough and wishes to honour a recently departed member by erecting a two meter headstone, what business is that of Council? Insist on adequate footings, sure, but nothing more.
    Cradle to grave is one thing. Cradle to after the grave is another. Stop standing on my headstone!

  2. I am puzzled: On the one hand the council wants more tourists and the other hand it wants to transform cemeteries into parkland.
    “The tourism potential of cemeteries has been overlooked in Australia until now. In other countries travellers seek out graveyards to pay homage to personal heroes, visit long-lost relatives from eras past, or to learn a bit about the history and culture of a place,” says Lonely Planet.
    I love to roam through cemeteries where ever I go. It is a good place to learn history and understand a bit more the locals.

  3. There is another method of burying the dead which is also held to be environmentally friendly, it is called “promession”.
    According to the Wikipedia entry on this subject, it’s a system of disposal of bodies of much more recent origin (two decades ago) than alkaline hydrolysis (19th century).
    It involves cryogenic freezing of bodies in liquid nitrogen to -196°C (in effect, crystallising them) after which vibrations are applied that shatter them in minutes into fragments.
    This material in turn is freeze dried and all metal or other non-natural components (eg. fillings, artifical joints) are removed.
    The final stage involves “the dry powder being placed in a biodegradable casket which is interred in the top layers of soil, where aerobic bacteria decompose the remains into humus in as little as 6 to 12 months.”
    Invented in Sweden, it’s a method already expressly adopted in South Korea and has expressions of interest from up to 60 other countries.
    I think promession also deserves consideration as an option for burials.

  4. We don’t need more parks, the council can’t maintain the ones they already have.
    Council, let these souls rest undisturbed and waste your time on something else.

  5. Cemeteries are extremely important heritage places and are a treasure trove of information for historians.
    Sadly, from my personal experience as a practising heritage architect, our town council administration lacks the expertise and sensitivity that is needed, and are more intent on “beautification” rather than respecting the heritage values of our town’s cemeteries.
    These proposed changes to the NT’s Cemeteries Act need to be handled very carefully if we are to avoid irreparable damage.
    Our local council and the NT Government need to seriously adopt “world’s best practice” and give more than just lip service to the term.

  6. Something to think read, to think about, to cherish: “Quiet City – Walking in West Terrace Cemetery” by Carol Lefevre.
    It was first published in 2016 by Wakefield Press and is one of the most engrossing histories I have ever read.

  7. I endorse Domenico and Hal’s comments below, although a lot of epitaphs on sandstone are being erased by time and wind.
    Some are evidence of a more Christian society one hundred years ago, others are philosophical.
    It’s interesting and reflective to wander through the older section of our cemeteries; to maintain, rather than deny present and future generations of historians.

  8. Oh, sure. Alice Springs is certainly somewhere lacking in space to expand. What sheer stupidity. Even if you did this, what kid will ever feel good playing on graves. Now I’ve heard it all.


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