Melbourne’s Melton Set to Build its Biggest Cemetery in a Century: Controversial or Crucial?

Melbourne’s Melton Set to Build its Biggest Cemetery in a Century: Controversial or Crucial?

Victoria is set to build its largest cemetery in 100 years, located in Harkness, about 40 kilometres north-west of Melbourne’s CBD near Melton.

The 128-hectare cemetery site will be built on traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, and the design is centered on Indigenous people and culture.

The Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust’s ‘masterplan’ was released on March 3, which includes a cultural smoking ceremony space and a ‘cultural spine’ that runs along Arnold’s Creek, where visitors can reflect and learn about Indigenous environmental and cultural values.

The cemetery’s proposed land celebrates Indigenous culture and provides a space for people to mourn, according to Trust Chief Executive Andrew Eriksen.

Climate change, population density, and demand for more space mean ‘single-use land is becoming less feasible,’ and a ‘reimagined’ cemetery is critical for Melbourne’s rapidly growing population.

The cemetery, which is expected to open in 2026, will have enough burial and cremation space for the next 150 years.

The first stage of development will focus on the southern precinct, which is described in the masterplan as a ‘community hub’ for mourners and other visitors.

It will have facilities for events, picnic and barbecue facilities, and areas for running and cycling. However, the site has divided locals, with some residents expecting a shopping centre instead of a cemetery.

Joyce Toway, who lives across a paddock from the site, rejected the idea of using the cemetery as a place for a family picnic, saying that ‘a cemetery is a cemetery’ and that it was ‘very creepy and concerning.’

Ms Toway claims she was told the site had plans for a shopping centre which would provide job opportunities for locals.

On the other hand, Melton Multifaith Network vice-president Kulvinder Singh supported the cemetery to be used as a recreational space, adding that ‘people should go there and see what other people are doing and learn from other cultures.’

During the cemetery’s consultation, he voiced concerns about the site’s cremation space, particularly for members of the South Asian community, where it’s important to follow the ritual that their elders have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.

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