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Where can I find more information about the cemetery?

This site is a hub for information on the Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery. The documents in the 'Related Documents' section, include a Discussion Paper, a draft Conservation Management Plan, the burial register and the previous Council report and provide details of the history of the site, and the project.

For those wanting more information, a drop-in information session will be held at the Council Administration Building on Thursday 24 October 2013 and Council staff will be available to answer your questions.

What is the history of the cemetery?

The cemetery was historically managed by the Waterfall Sanatorium/Hospital.

There are over 2000 recorded burials in the cemetery. Only 30-50% of those who died at the Sanatorium in any given year were buried in the cemetery. Others were claimed by relatives or friends to be buried elsewhere.

The people buried at the site are a highly diverse range of individuals from across not only NSW, but also many incoming migrants from across the world.

Improvements in health care, including the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, led to a major decline in the number of tuberculosis deaths. The last burial at Waterfall General Cemetery occurred in 1949 and the site was subsequently abandoned.

The cemetery came into the care and control of Wollongong Council in 1967 along with a number of other cemeteries. By this time, the cemetery had fallen out of use and had become overgrown.

In 2011, Council’s custodianship of the cemetery was brought to Council’s attention by local researchers. Since
that time Council has been considering options for the future management of the site and is now seeking community input into this decision-making process.

Why can’t I access the cemetery?

The cemetery is located in an isolated area and is very overgrown. The site is surrounded by bushland owned by different state government departments and authorities and cannot be accessed using public roads.

Currently, Council has no legal access to the site.

Public access to the cemetery carries significant risks due to the site’s condition and secluded location. To reduce
risks of harm and injury, public access to the site is discouraged.  Access to the site into the future will be reviewed as part of the community consultation process.

It is acknowledged that discouraging access is a difficult decision, particularly for those with family connections to the cemetery. For this reason, a short film "Not Forgotten: The Story of Waterfall General Cemetery" has been produced to showcase the cemetery and explore its history. This film, produced by Gooseboy Productions, can be viewed on Council’s website.

Does the cemetery pose any health risks?

Council has received advice from the NSW Ministry of Health which says that organisms that cause tuberculosis are unlikely to survive long in human remains. The health risks relating to infectious disease are therefore very low and precautions would only be necessary if remains were being disturbed or excavated.

Any future management of the cemetery will be subject to rigorous risk management plans and practices.

Why is this cemetery so important?

The cemetery was operated by the Waterfall State Sanatorium, which was the only state-run facility for tuberculosis. As an important part of the Sanatorium’s history, it provides unique evidence of the history of treatment of tuberculosis in NSW during the first half of the 20th century. It also provides evidence of the burial processes used, and the cooperation of a State institution with local religious groups.

Is the cemetery protected by a heritage listing?

The Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery site is currently listed as a local heritage item under the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan 2009. 

There are separate heritage listings related to the former Waterfall Sanatorium site to the north.  It also lists the Garrawarra Hospital Conservation Area, which covers the former Sanatorium and Hospital site but does not currently include the Cemetery within its boundary.

The Draft Waterfall General Cemetery Conservation Management Plan for the site, prepared by Biosis Research, recommends that that the Cemetery, along with the Sanatorium site is considered to have State significant heritage values and should be nominated for a state heritage listing. The draft CMP recommends the consolidation of the listings to acknowledge the linked nature of significance attached to the two sites.

I have connections to the cemetery or Waterfall Hospital and have photos and stories that I'd like to share. How can I do this?

Wollongong Council would love to receive your photos and/or stories. These could help us learn more about the site and to communicate the history of the site to the wider community. You can upload your photos on the Stories tab, send copies of your photos or stories via mail or email, or you can call Council’s Heritage Officer or the Local Studies branch of Wollongong Library on (02) 4227 7111.

How do I know whether my ancestor’s burial site is identifiable?

A copy of the original burial register for the cemetery is available to view at Council’s Libraries and can be downloaded from the website. The photographic index of identifiable graves is also available to view.

The photographic index features 54 identified graves, and can be used to identify burial sites and to view photographs of remaining headstones. It is envisaged that other identifiable burial sites may become visible should some of the deadwood in the cemetery be cleared away in the future. 

How can I have my say?

You can get involved in online discussions on this site, and take our short survey. All you need to do is register with an email address, and you're in! You can then use the same login for having your say on any future issues on this site.

If you prefer hard copy, you can pick up a feedback form from one of our libraries (click here for locations), then send it to us by mail, email or in person at our Administration Building at 41 Burelli Street, Wollongong. Alternatively, you can write down your thoughts and send in a submission to Council before 15 November 2013.

What are the next steps for the Cemetery?

We're seeking comments and ideas from the community about the future management of the Waterfall General (Garrawarra) Cemetery.

The Conservation Management Plan by Biosis and the accompanying Discussion Paper present a number of options for further thought.

The exhibition period provides plenty of time to view this information and submissions will be accepted until 15 November 2013.

After the exhibition period, a report will be prepared to Council about the feedback received. All feedback received during the consultation period will be considered and inform the recommendations to Council on the future management of the cemetery.

Council will also consider the findings of the Conservation Management Plan and importantly, the costs of management options and required works, before making a decision on how to proceed.