Settlers in cemeteries




Cemeteries can give a breakdown of the origins of a town's population. From the Irish with their large celtic crosses to the Italians with their black marble monuments. I also propose to discuss where known customs relating to death & burial for those nationalities. ln some cases where material has not been found for some nationalities in Australian cemeteries then overseas material has been used.

Russian Orthodox
Torres Strait Islanders

It has been suggested that there were 7 main types of aboriginal burial:

  1. Simple earth burial
  2. Burning the body
  3. Burial on a tree platform
  4. Temporary burial on tree platform then disposal of bones
  5. Eating the flesh-followed by platform & subsequent coffin burial
  6. Mummification
  7. Leaving the body in the open.

(Australian.Encylopaedia :Sydney:Angus & Robertson.1927).

In Queensland another method, not mentioned in the Encylopaedia, was bark burial which could be in cliff faces or in shelters.

With the coming of European settlement Aborigines were buried in separate unmarked sections of public cemeteries. 1f they did rate a headstone they usually were given a first name only or in the case of an employer erecting a tombstone, the employer’s name was inscribed in larger letters than that of the dead Aborigine! Exceptions to this generalisation, such as a Roma tombstone, are unusual.

Cemeteries in remote areas such as Wyndham & Bourke contain the graves of Afghan camel drivers who supplied their regions with essential goods. The graves have been laid out in the cemetery so that the headstones face Mecca. The outsanding book, Tin Mosques & Ghanatowns: A History of Afghan Cameldrivers in Australia by Christine Stevens, gives a detailed account of death & funeral practices.

  1. Dying man would call together relatives & prayers from Koran said.
  2. After death,Koran would be read whilst relatives gather.
  3. The body would be taken to the mosque, cIeaned and wrapped in calico.
  4. Face turned to right so on burial would face Mecca.
  5. Funeral service held at cemetery.The bier was then carried to the prepared grave which was 6ft deep with an underground chamber running to the right side. ln some cases a 2ft high space was left underneath planks to allow the man to sit erect on judgment day.
  6. Fruit handed out at entrance to cemeteries as a token of gratitude.
  7. Women were not allowed at the cemetery.
  8. Feast held at home of deceased
  9. Very often all photos of dead person destroyed.
  10. Most of the camel men are buried in a separate section of the local cemetery-usually at the far north-west.
  11. A few Australian Afghan graves are marked by a wooden surround resembling a bedstead. This form was representative of the deceased persons last bed.
  12. A few of the Afghans were Sikhs. They were usually cremated as quickly as possible after death.

The Bourke cemetery contains the grave of a camel driver, Bye Khan, who was was believed to be 107 when he died in 1947.

Many Americans came to Australia during the gold rush period although I have only seen a very few references on tombstones to the United States as a country of origin. .However, the book by E.Daniel & Annette Potts Americans and the Gold Rush of the 1850's describes the problems when an American died in Australia. When an early Cobb & Co. driver died at Bendigo, his coffin,draped,with the stars & stripes. was carried in a Cobb & Co. coach drawn by four white horses.

At the death in action of a member of Moss's Volunteer Fire Company, a mournful pageant resulted. The Volunteer engine. covered with ribbons and garlands and drawn by 20 men, led the funeral procession for Charles Clapp, a Californian, and assistant barman at the Criterion, while the band of the 40th Regiment played 'Dead March in Saul'. A few keepsakes enclosed in a small casket were eventually sent to the young man’s father in Philadelphia and a subscription started for a memorial.

A Tombstone at Gympie shows a confederate flag expressing the dead person's hope that the American South will remain forever strong. A Toowoomba tombstone recalls incorrectly that the man served under General Custer in the Indian-Modoc wars. At Waverley cemetery in Sydney it is reported that 4 men who served in the American Civil War were remembered on May 30th every year which is America's Memorial Day.

For customs in the United States see, Mayer, Richard E. (ed.) Cemeteries & Grave-markers: Voices of American Culture London: UMI

Ausralians have followed a fairly universal custom of burying significant objects with the dead. Some of the objects have included:

  • Ambulance caps,
  • beer cans (empty!),
  • motorbike helmets,
  • sorghum sheaves,spears(Leahy family from New Guinea),
  • toys-(dolls,meccano sets,etc.),
  • wallet(empty)-relatives waited nearby to make sure grave was fully filled in before departing.Had a drink or three whilst waiting,
  • wedding rings,
  • wheat sheaves.

Because of their great attachment to horses, many country Australians record horses on their tombstones by way of photos or sketches. Many Australians were also killed accidentally in falls from a horses. A unique Australian custom is the embedding of horseshoes in the concrete surrounds of a grave.

Mrs Rube Stevens from Mackay, in relation to horse portrayed on the headstones of fallen soliders, says that:
"if the horse is on four legs it means the soldier returned. If one foreleg is raised it means he was wounded in action. If both forelegs were raised it means he was killed in action. This would have applied a lot in the first World War with Light Horse Men."

Other Australian custons noted include:
• "Up there Cazaly" was played at the funeral of a fanatical Aussie Rules supporter in Toowoomba. The archdeacon conducting the burial service was not amused!
• Hospitals in Queensland paid for burials for those with no money
• War cemeteries are beautifully kept.
• An 1880's funeral for an Anglican priest gives an indication for services at that time. After the church service, 2 clergy & the choir met the coffin at the cemetery entrance where 6 choir members carried it to the graveside with the choir singing a funeral hymn. The coffin was lowered, after a brief ritual, by one of the priests with the choir singing another two appropriate hymns. The clergy and the choristers then left the graveside to allow the mourners to gaze at the coffin if they so wished.
• Ashes of a relative sometimes put in back of tombstone in Queensland.
• As with Scottish custom, mounds were sometimes used in Australia to mark road gang convicts graves near Katoomba.
• Also mounds found in northern Qld because ground too hard to bury!
• Crosses beside major roads are now becoming common in Queensland. They mark the places where people have been killed in road accidents. Is this copied from an Italian custom?
• In Mt Isa everyone knew when a funeral would take place because of geligniting to blast out grave!

Some distinctly Australian tombstone decorations include:
• Birds – kookaburras, parrots
• Animals- koala bears
• Trees-gum
• Scenes- recent brass memorials include a man sitting beside a river under a gum tree and a man riding a horse into the sunset.
Sports -Aussie Rules football, Rugby League including socks).

The main influx in Queensland came in 1869 with gold discoveries at Gilberton in North Queensland. Many also came to Palmer River goldfields from 1873 and furnished much needed labour for clearing the land, manning the mines, providing domestic service & many became expert market gardeners.

• Many years ago the Chinese put pennies in the vases in graves & left them there. (R.C.3)
• When buried from a chapel or church and not Christian all crosses to be covered.
• (Grave reflections by Jan Davidson & Helen Doxford.)
• Burial customs are very interesting and a number of funeral ovens can still be located. (see oven photo p.63)
• A Chinese who died underwent the traditional ceremony of 'feasting the dead', after which the dead man was buried with sufficient supplies to fortify him on his long journey to the next life.
• Each Chinese community visited its burial ground on the third Sunday of each month and honoured their ancestors with incense burning and feasting.
• It has been estimated that the remains of from 60-70% of Chinese were disinterred and returned to China for reburial with their ancestors.
• The book: Who's Master, who's man, by Michael Cannon, is recommended for further reading.
• Out west, there tend to be single isolated Chinese graves in most cemeteries. For example, that of Mrs Con Foo in Tambo.
• Often tiny cups and saucers are left son the graves.
• From the Darling Downs Gazette of 6 April 1921:
o 'Yesterday was the annual Tomb Festival day of Chinese of Toowoomba and a large number of them were conveyed to the cemetery in motor cars which started from the establishment of Kwong Sang & Co. The Celestials paid their respects and observed the quaint ceremonies associated with such an occasion in memory of the Chinese who are dead and who have been interred at the Toowoomba cemetery. The ceremony included the offering and burning of incense and joss sticks and papers, interspersed with the letting off of a large quantity of crackers. The proceedings were followed with considerable interest by a number of Europeans who happened to be at the cemetery'.

When gold was discovered in the Pine Creek / Katherine area of the Northern Territory, life was miserable for the Chinese. There were cases of Chinese getting lost and dying of thirst or being speared by the Aborigines. Along with these problems the 'fever' also persisted. Of hundreds of deaths up to 1883, up to half were from malaria, and references to Chinese bodies along the way tell little of what must have been many tragic and lonely deaths. (See Heritage Summer 1986)

From Eric Rolls' Sojourners: the Epic Story of China's centuries-old relationship with Australia - In one of the graveyards at North Head there is a stone for Moon Kee, who died on 9/4/1900 - the first Chinese victim of the plague in Australia.

Up to recent times,the English system of burial has been followed in Australia. That is, a church service followed by another shortened service at the graveside. With the trend away from Christian burial, services are now frequently conducted by civil celebrants either in a funeral or garden of remembrance chapel or sometimes with a graveside service only.

Tombstones have ranged from the elaborate and expensive Victorian era to simple crosses in more recent times. Fortunately for family historians, many tombstones carried a place of birth and also symbols such as a rose to indicate they came from England.

It is of interest to look at some of tbe burial/funeral customs which existed in England centuries ago. Such details are provided in, Gittings, Clare (1984) Death burial-and the individual In early modern England. London: Croom Helm.

In 1852 the first German settlers arrived in the Toowoomba region and by 1858 large numbers were here. Most were farmers and tradesmen and most were Lutheran but there were others who were Roman Catholic, Jewsish or Church of England. When they first arrived the Germans were described as devout people and very hard workers.

The church was the pivotal point for German people in Australia. Church was the only social gathering for many isolated settlers and all the usual services such as burial were conducted there.
German tombstones contain, as well as the usual birth & death dates, the scripture from the funeral sermon & inscriptions usually in German, especially before WWl. (see Owen Mutzelburg, How to trace your German ancestors:A guide for Australians and New Zealanders. Hale & ironmonger,1989) The 1881 census showed a total white population in Queensland of 213,500 of which 12,000 were Germans.


Other worthwhile sources for early German history are: The Centenary of the Trinity Lutheran Church 1887-1987 and 'The German immigration-settlement on the Darling Downs’ in Darling Downs 1840-1940

Some observations on German tombstones in the Drayton & Toowoomba cemetery
• Very large Lutheran section but many people of German descent buried in other denominational sections such as old Church of England which was the original lot set out in the cemetery.
• Many well-known names in Toowoomba's history are of German origin, such as: Lindemann (wife of founder of famous wines), Thiess (huge construction firm), Spiro (a German-Jew who was a Toowoomba mayor and founder of Qld's first synagogue), Berghofer (former Mayor & huge property developer), Lange (Darren Lange, Olympic swimmer)
• Very few ornate tombstones-mainly crosses
• Detailed description about Pastor Noack's achievements. He was a founder of Concordia College Primary section. Part German inscription 'Jesus meine Zuver icht'
• The Twenty third psalm is a popular inscription
• Hymns are also popular an include: Rock of ages, Abide with me, ln the sweet bye & bye.
• Bible readings are often given and these were also probably the texts for the funeral sermon. An example is 'Blessed are the pure in heart For they shall see God'
• Benedictions are also seen, such as: The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord.
• Several resurrection references including: Sleep on dear parents till the day of resurrection
• The swastika sign was not the feared symbol in the thirties that it became in WW2. Several pre WW2 photos seen included the linking of the Union Jack & the swastika.
• Rev.G.Hartwig, Toowoomba Trinity Lutheran Church says:
o Biblical texts on tombstones may refer to texts used at baptisms / confirmations as well as funerals. A pastor may refer to the baptism texts in a funeral service
o The references to the resurrection indicate the hope of all Christians.
o Germans have a strong sense of history so keep all important documents such as confirmation records, etc.
o Only on odd occasions may German be used in a funeral service in Toowoomba. Such an occasion may be a recent arrival from Germany who has died.
o If the person who died was a church member, the custom still remains of food being provided for the relatives/friends by parishioners in the church hall after the funeral service.
Pastor August Fricke of Brisbane advised that Germans are often dismayed when they see the unkempt appearance of many Australian cemeteries. ln contrast German cemeteries are visited frequently by relatives and are very well kept. He also said that there still a demand for services in the German language.

In 1861, 36% of the colony's German settlers settled in the Toowoomba area (P.248 Pubs, Ploughs & Peculiar People)

The inscription which is most predominant at the New Apostolic Church at Hatton Vale is the circle with the 4 'R"s which is at the centre of their belief. The 'R"s stand for, Right, Royal, Righteous and Rich.

Greek Orthodox services include breaking plates & pouring oil on the coffin.
It is said that the first Greek to settle here permanently was Rev. Arsenios, who lived in Clermont. He was granted British citizenship in 1869. ln Queensland many Greeks lived in country areas. The Greek community was closely knit and believed in the family unit.

There are a few Greeks in the Toowoomba community. Tombstones here are often in Greek and are very elaborate similar to those of the Victorian era.

Charleville family known as Corones has an Olympic torch on the tombstone.

Chris McConville in his book Croppies, Celts & Catholics says:
Even the most melancholy Australian town has some reminder of Ireland. Any walk of the sugar cane farms through a dilapidated city or country graveyard will reveal the best-known Irish emblem, the Celtic cross. Catholic zones in cemeteries look like petrified Irish forests. The Celtic crosses rise above the last resting places of Irish folk, cut off from Ireland by thousands of miles of ocean.

Quotes below are taken from, O'Farrell, Patrick, The Irish In Australia.
• July 1791 Collins noted that the carelessness of those Irish engaged in a wake, the traditional Irish festival celebration for the dead, had led to the burning down of a hut and the scorching of a corpse. (p.27)
• He commented in October 1794 about those strange Irish folk practices which ‘celebrated the funeral rites in a manner and with orgies suitable to the deceased, his widow, and themselves'. (p.27)
• ‘And in Ryan's Kingdom, into the eighties and nineties, feasting at wakes would go on all night, a social occasion for the district: mourners smoked clay pipes for the deceased soul; a cup of water was left out in case he or other holy souls were thirsty.' (p.124)


• 'The "American wake" confirms the concept of emigration as a kind of death, though Irish funereal celebrations tended to be happy affairs: both ceremonies honoured the final passing to another world'.(P.58)
• Describes an 1861 scene when families were about to leave Ireland for Australia: 'Here in a body they knelt, flung themselves on the graves of their relatives, which they reverently kissed again and again and raised for the last time the Irish caoine or funeral wail.' (P.70)
• Morgan Jaguers from Melbourne was an Irishmen who was heavily involved with Irish cultural activities. He was also a monumental mason by trade and took a keen interst in Celtic art forms as they became a feature of the Gaelic revival in Ireland. It was Jaguers who was mainly responsible for introducing a feature which came into vogue in the more affluent sections of Australian Catholic cemeteries from the 1880's - tbe traditional ancient Celtic cross. (p.171 & 173)
• Perhap the most famous monument in Australia to an Irishman is that to Michael Dwyer and his wife in Waverley Cemetery in Sydney. It commemorates those violent rebellions in 1898 against British rule which began the Irish peopling of Australia. In the 1876 census there were 1516 English and Welsh migrants in the Drayton-Toowoomba area, 1493 Irish & 1917 Germans. (p.310)

Grandma Donovan of Cabarlah near Toowoomba was a firm believer that you could hear the wail of the Banshee before a death. One still night, a couple in a sulky on their way home heard the wail. The horse bolted but fortunately no-one was hurt. Next day they learned that there had been a death in the community

A priest first came to Queensland in 1845-to Stradbroke Island but did not last long. Italians started to arrive in the second half of the 19th century and clergymen were in the forefront. One priest in the 1870's in the Stanthorpe area earned the title 'father of the fruit industry'.

Many Italians also arrived in North Queensland where they owned more than one third of the sugar cane farms. Stanthorpe has one of the highest densities of Italian migrants in Queensland, in 2 groups: northerners & southerners. The cemetery has a large Italian section with marmoreal monuments.

Italian monuments are frequently large & of black marble. Italian language is often used. Many have photographs and are often swamped with statues & plastic flowers. Others feature religious motifs such as Mary or Rosaries. Innisfail cemetery contains many Italian vaults. l've even seen builders names inside. The cemetery is on the tourist run!

Broome has a Japanese cemetery, which dates from 1896 in the very early pearling days. Typical tombstone contain information such as: Name, place of birth, age, date of death, names of those who erected the monument.

Men buried at Broome were born in a place called 'Wakayama'. The people from here historically followed the God of the Sea and are famous as fishermen & divers. Many died as a result of the bends. Most Japanese tombstones have bottles embedded in their foundations. These are part of the yearly festival called 'Obom'. On August 15th, the Japanese pay their respects to the dead by cleaning the grave-sites and leaving offerings of food, flowers & saki to the spirits.

An intricate part of 'Obom 'is called the 'Shoro Nagashi' or the flow of the spirits. In this ceremony, relatives gather the grave offerings and in the evening place them in small delicate boats made of bamboo & rice paper. A candle is placed in the boat which is then launched, usually into a river.

On the night of ‘Obom', the Japanese community practised this custom by launching their boats into Roebuck Bay on the out-going tide. This proved a delight for the local children who would follow the flickering fleets along the shore, eager to intercept the goodies on board. Since then,the Japanese community of Broome has dwindled and 'Obom' is no longer a big event. (Shire of Broome Community Information Directory 1985-1986)

The first Japanese pearl diver to arrive in Queensland came to Thursday Island in 1878. 0f the 525 recorded deaths of Japanese on Thursday Island, 252 were divers who suffered from decompression sickness.


The establishment of a synagogue arose slowly out of the need to bury the dead. On 15 April 1788 Joseph Levy, a convict of the First Fleet, was the first Jew to be buried in Australian soil. On 13 July 1790 the convict Uziel Baruch, known as "Husser Brewe", died two weeks after arrival and was buried in a now forgotten piece of land designated as a cemetery near Sydney Cove. (Levi, J.S. & Bergman, G.F. (1974), Australian Genesis: Jewish Convicts and Settlers 1788-1850.. Rigby)

2,373 convicts were sent from Sydney to Moreton Bay between 1824 and 1839. 0ne per cent of them were Jews.

Jews were sometimes buried outside cemeteries, for instance, at St George, Queensland.

Seven branched candlesticks known as the 'Menorah' symbol of Judaism, if displayed on a monument means that, “God has been 'a lamp unto my face and a light unto my path” Psalms

One of the first things an organised Jewish community must attend to is the setting aside of a burial ground. There are firm rules about burials. Each person is treated exactly the same, no matter what their position had been in life. Plain wooden coffins are and the deceased is prepared for burial and dressed in plain white shrouds by special groups of men and women volunteers who attend to their own gender. Burials must be only one body per grave with perhaps the only exception being a mother and infant who died in childbirth.

According to Jewish law, burial should take place within 24 hours of death. This can often prevent relatives and friends who live in more distant places from being present at the graveside. It is not necessary to have a rabbi to officiate. Any lay person can read the customary prayers. It is not customary to bring flowers to a Jewish burial but mourners are expected to make charitable donations. Cremation is not permitted under Orthodox Jewish law.

A memorial stone may be erected at any time after the first thirty days but most usually is done on the first anniversary of the death. The stone-setting ceremony,to which family and friends are invited, is known as 'the consecration'. It is a very strong tradition that memorials should be kept within the bounds of modest appearance but sometimes this custom does not seem to have been kept.

It is a sign of respect to the dead to place a memorial on the grave with their name (in English and in Hebrew, (the latter always giving the name of the father) and the date of death as minimum details. Often, if the deceased had been known as a scholar or a pious or charitable person, that would also be shown in the Hebrew inscription, and sometimes the town from which they had come. Sometimes a verse from some holy book is added. Another custom is to place a small stone or pebble on the grave when visiting it ( often done just before Jewish holy days, or on the anniversaries of the date of death) to show that the deceased person has not been forgotten.

Recent Toowoomba Jewish burial: Wooden Star of David at head of grave; candles lit on silver tray; prayers in Hebrew by Jewish elders in skull caps; eulogy in English after coffin lowered then soil from Jerusalem sprinkled on it followed by straw-straw covered by earth.

Best known of all Jewish symbols is the Star of David which symbolises God's power extending in all directions. The intertwined triangles signify the close link between this world and the world to come. Last but not least, the Star of David is a divine, guiding star.

Extract from Chosen: The Jews in Australia by Hilary Rubinstein:
'Organised Australian Jewish life originated in the need for a Jewish burial site. The first Jew to die in Australia, a First Fleet convict whose death occured only three months after his arrival, was interred in unconsecrated ground. Subsequent burials of Jews took place in Christian cemeteries. In 1817, a Jewish burial society (seemingly a traditional chevra kadisha ) was formed in Sydney and in 1820 the Anglican Archdeacon of Sydney (who was generally friendly to Jewish interests) agreed to part of the Anglican burial ground being reserved for Jewish internments. The burial society was the nucleus of a congregation. Between 1817 and 1825 its members formed the necessary minyan required to say kaddish, the mourner's prayer of santificatlon. These early funeral services were conducted by German-born general dealer Joseph Marcus, who had been transported in 1791 for burglary'.
See also, Rutland, Suzanne, D. Edge of the Diaspora: Two centuries of Jewish Settlement in Australia, “The first record of any type of Jewish service came in 1803 at the time of the unsuccessful execution of Joseph Samuel, where it was reported that he was "prepared by a person of his own profession".

Observing the correct procedures of a Jewish burial is a basic duty of every Jew and this explains why the first development in almost every Jewish community throughout Australia was the consecration of a Jewish section in a cemetery. Almost all other aspects of Jewish life can be observed in the home, including public worship which requires only a minyan, a quorum of ten men over the age of thirteen. At least 5 Jewish burials took place in the Sydney, Devonshire Street, cemetery in the 1820's. When Joseph Marcus, a well known Jew,died in 1828, he was buried in the Jewish section of the Devonshire Street cemetery. His gravestone was engraved in Hebrew letters with the last four lines of a familiar synagogue hymn, Adon Olam (The Lord of Eternity). His tombstone was probably erected by a general subscription from the early emancipist community as a tribute to 'the first unofficial Jewish minister'.

The Lebanese first came to Australia in 1876 and continued emigrating until 1920. The second wave came after WW2 & a third wave arroved post WW2. Often they started as hawkers then set up shops and warehouses. They built the Church of St Clements in Brisbane in 1928. The Lebanese have strong family ties. One vault in Toowoomba. One family member holds the key. Visit as large family groups - I've seem 4 or 5 car loads there at one time. Caskets, even though old, are still in very good condition. Many tombstones feature Mary and are made of elaborate white marble. Most Lebanese are Catholics.

Beautiful chanting at funeral services. Earliest mention of Russian settlers in Queensland dates from 1886 when the Legislative Assembly reported that 67 men & 12 women of Russian origin lived in the colony. Incoming Russians preferred living in South Brisbane but in 1923 with the opening up of the Callide valley, many got land in the Theodore, Thangool, Biloeola, Mt Larcom, Callide & Monto districts.

The Russians usually have a three-barred cross for a tombstone. The highest bar has an inscription. The second bar is the sign of the arms of the cross and the third is the wood on which Christ's feet rested.

Little is recorded about Australian Scottish customs except that the pipes are often played at funerals. See, Betty Willsher Understanding Scottish Graveyards for more information on Scottish customs. She says there were often noisy and unseemly scenes in graveyards. Food and drink were served over several hours before funeral began and that in the churchyards, whisky was often lavishly dispensed. All poor gathered at the funeral as they customarily received the dole which was a gift of coins. As can be understood, the funeral used to be a celebration for all to enjoy. See also, Death is For the Living by Anne Gordon. (Edinburgh: Paul Harris, 1984-28 ) Chapters about death customs in Scotland.

Some Scottish symbols are: pipes, St Andrews cross, thistle, kilts.

Scots had a wonderful habit of giving the wife’s maiden name on the tombstone!

See Thathilgaw Emeret Lu: A handbook of Traditional Torres Strait Islands Material Culture by Lindsay Wilson (Brisbane: Education Department,1988).T his book contians detailed information on death and the influence of ancestors. Some short extracts are as follows:

  • 'In Torres Strait,where head hunting was economically important, death often came with unexpected suddeness to young and old alike. Invariably and irrespective of the cause, death was followed by loud public grieving and inquiry (often by divination) into its cause'.
  • 'Death rituals in both Western and Eastern Islands placed great emphasis on preserving human remains so that they might be kept by the immediate family.'
  • Cannabalism was practised in the belief that those who ate the dead man's flesh could inherit his admired characteristics.
  • Death rituals occupied a great deal of time, effort and resources in island communities. However these efforts were generally directed to those of some significance in the community. Women, children and the elderly were given simple burials. Relative’s skulls were sometimes used for divining purposes.
  • Pages 120 and 121 give graphic details including sketches of the death and disposal of corpses in the Western and Murray groups of islands.

From Singe, John (1979) The Torres Strait people and history. Brisbane: University.of Queensland Press “When a person dies a wake is held with female relatives wailing for hours on end. The dead person is buried quickly.”

All relatives are required to contribute to his tombstone which may be erected a year or two after death. Wealthier families conducted big ceremonies with hundreds of guest for the unveiling of elaborate cement monuments.

No fish is eaten as fish is common in the diet. Instead lots of meat is consumed.

Increasingly because of cost more modest ceremonies are conducted.

The Anglican church recognises these ceremonies.

Early funerary customs included a grave decorated with dugong and turtle bones, 2 human skulls and a paddle. Many of this type of grave occur in high spots, perhaps for hunters who used the spots for lookouts.

Hands & feet preservation was practised, as was mummification. Islanders put great store on their links with ancestors.

The Thursday Island cemetery sounds interesting. As with Toowoong, the most important were buried at the top.

South Sea Islanders were Christian so earned a place in the upper cemetery! Moslems were buried at the gully's bottom, and even further down are forests of Japanese concrete grave posts with often a frangipani growing in the grave. Originally there were some carved wooden posts but few survived.

In many respects these graves were the only lasting reminders of various people who contributed to the history of Thursday Island.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.