February 28, 2013
Buried somewhere within the walls of Taromeo Cemetery is a time capsule which contains the names of everyone who worked to restore the pioneer site after the devastating 2011 floods.
Also included is the story of what happened … and how the community and council rallied to restore one of the South Burnett’s most historic places.
Taromeo Cemetery, located near Benarkin, is one of only two stone-walled family cemeteries in Australia and is listed in the State Heritage Register.
The cemetery had stood through fires and storms – and was a popular tourist attraction – until January 2011 when it was totally destroyed by floodwaters which rose from the adjacent creek.
“Council started getting phone calls from the community saying that we need to get it fixed, and we need to get it fixed now!,” SBRC Communities General Manager Eleanor Sharpe told a crowd gathered at the cemetery site on Saturday for the official blessing and re-opening.
But because the cemetery was Heritage-listed it was not a simple project, and council was determined the cost would not be a burden on ratepayers.
Eventually both State and Federal funding was located to allow the $180,000 restoration to go ahead.
About 30 volunteers – including many local residents and council staff – helped to prepare the site before the stonemasons came in … moving and sorting the stones and rubble.
Eleanor said it had been a very emotional experience working among the graves and toppled headstones.
Well-known Blackbutt businessman Ian Gilliland – himself a direct descendant of pioneers in the cemetery – prepared the access route for the machinery.
Ziegler Monumentals, from Toowoomba, was called in to repair the headstones.
South Burnett Mayor Wayne Kratzmann paid tribute to the many volunteers, in particular, the local SES members who kept everyone fed and helped to remove debris.
He also praised the two stonemasons, Roy and Geoff Welling, for doing a magnificent job.
The whole project took about five months.
Cr Kratzmann said council wanted Taromeo Cemetery to be a special place for the people buried there, their families and the people who will visit it in the future.
“It is a touch haunting to look back at our forefathers and the trials and tribulations they went through,” he said.
Buried within the cemetery are members of the Scott family. Just outside the walls are a number of unmarked graves, including one that is believed to be that of the original stonemason.
Footnote: In 1842, Simon Scott brought his family from NSW to Taromeo Station, the first property to be established in the South Burnett region. Scott died in 1858.