John Gough’s mother-in-law was the first person to be buried in Lismore’s new bush cemetery. The Wollongbar man and his family preferred the natural bush setting over more traditional sites provided in the lawn cemetery.
John Gough’s mother-in-law was the first person to be buried in Lismore’s new bush cemetery. The Wollongbar man and his family preferred the natural bush setting over more traditional sites provided in the lawn cemetery. CATHY ADAMS

First burials at Lismore's new bush cemetery

WHEN John Gough’s mother-in-law died in June last year, the family decided to bury her at Lismore’s new bush cemetery.

“It was a very sad time for us, for my wife and her sister,” he said.

“Their mum was in a lot of pain right before she died. She was 97.”

The Wollongbar family was the first to bury a loved one at the cemetery, which has now been open for six months.

Two other people are also buried there.

Memorial Gardens Lawn Cemetery co-ordinator Kris Whitney said another two families had pre-selected sites.

He said the bushland cemetery could accommodate several hundred graves, so would remain a viable option for many years to come.

Mr Gough said the cemetery’s natural surroundings had appealed to his family.

“We’ve buried my mother-in-law next to a beautiful landmark tree. We will always be able to find her,” he said.

“The council also gives you the GPS co-ordinates so you can find where your relative has been buried.
“Soon we’ll have a stone near the grave, which will be engraved with her name.

“We had a normal burial service and everything was done really well.

“There was a timber coffin, aligned with the natural timbers of the area, so that it will eventually rot away.

“It’s not as sombre as a regular cemetery – you can hear the wind through the trees and the birds singing.

“It will take some time before others warm to the idea, because it’s breaking tradition.
“But they should just come and see how nice it is here.”

The bushland cemetery has also provided an education facility for students studying bush regeneration at Wollongbar TAFE.

Students, led by their teacher Tein McDonald, have been working to regenerate the site as part of their course.

And Mr Gough is looking forward to seeing the site once more work is done there.

“At the moment there’s some weeds and the grass is quite long, but I guess that’s all part of it as well. It’s something a bit different,” he said.

“Apparently they’re also planning to put in some logs so you can sit there.”

The ‘green burial’ concept was developed in the UK in the 1990s.

Sites now exist in Tasmania and Victoria.

The idea for a bushland cemetery at Lismore first came up more than two years ago.

Lismore City Council’s manager of business services, Phil Klepzig, realised that the Memorial Gardens Cemetery only had about five years of burial space left.

It is believed the new, three-hectare site will provide burial space for 50 or 60 years.

Much of the bushland site is designated koala habitat.

The natural setting is an ideal alternative to cremation, Mr Gough said, and he thinks the concept will eventually take off.

“I would like to be buried somewhere like this myself,” he said.

“I think I’d hate to be buried in a regular cemetery, all lined up like that.

“This would do me just fine.”


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