DISRESPECT. That is how Debbie Ross sees the way modern Bendigo is treating the bones of our ancestors.
The Strathdale resident was doing her family history last month and visited Bendigo Cemetery as part of her research.
Armed with a cemetery map and grave numbers, she eagerly set off for the old section of the cemetery to find family graves from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Her excitement rapidly evaporated as she tried to navigate poorly maintained paths littered with loose rocks.
Then she saw the old graves themselves: sunken, derelict, with broken headstones, surrounded by branches, rocks and rubbish.
Miss Ross said she was "shocked, saddened and disgusted" to see the condition of the grounds, graves and headstones.
"I lost count of how many graves and tombs I came across that had literally sunk down so far that the surface covering the coffin area had caved in and cracked, leaving gaping holes, which was a shocking sight," she said.
"There were countless damaged headstones lying on the ground. Rubbish, branches and rocks were everywhere.
Miss Ross said it made her wonder whose responsibility it was to keep old graves and grounds maintained.
Bendigo Cemeteries Trust manager of corporate services Shane Robinson said the responsibility to maintain graves belonged to the holder of the "right of interment", usually a relative.
In the case of the older graves, then, the situation could get tricky, he said.
"Most people don't realise they have inherited the maintenance of a grave," he said.
He said the Bendigo Cemeteries Trust was a non-profit organisation that received no government funding, and was prohibited from spending any money on maintenance under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act.
"Any money has to go back into current graves and burials," he said.
But he empathised with Miss Ross's sentiments.
"It's really difficult looking at all those gravestones that are broken.
"Unfortunately there's nothing we (the Trust) can do to fund their repair."
Miss Ross said the cemetery's shocking state needed to be publicised and something done.
"Funding needs to be directed into this issue," she said.
"Cemeteries are a sacred site and part of our history and they should be given the respect they deserve."
Miss Ross suggested the community could help with a Clean Up a Cemetery Day, along the lines of the successful Clean Up Australia Day; or "Save a Grave", where people could volunteer to look after and maintain a grave.
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Mr Robinson agreed the community could do a lot to help.
He said there were two volunteer groups that helped look after the old graves - Friends of the Bendigo Cemeteries and a Bendigo Cemeteries Trust volunteer group.
He said the Friends group had turned over fallen headstones so their inscriptions were readable, and the Trust volunteers were repairing broken headstones by gluing the pieces on to concrete backplates.
Mr Robinson said there were many opportunities to volunteer to cut grass, repair footpaths and other tasks.
Miss Ross said vandalism was another problem at the cemetery and Mr Robinson urged anyone who witnessed vandalism to contact the Trust and the police.
The Trust can be contacted on 5446 1566 or www.bencemtrust.com.au.
For Miss Ross, it's a situation she said must be changed.
"The reality is we all die one day, and when that time comes you would hope that where you are put to rest would and should be a nice place for family and friends to visit and grieve, rather than an awful visit to a run-down cemetery.".