BENDIGO will have its first annual Clean Up Our Cemeteries Day next month to coincide with Clean Up Australia Day.
The news has pleased Strathdale resident Debbie Ross, who last year contacted the Bendigo Advertiser to campaign to clean up the city’s neglected graves.
Miss Ross aired concerns about the appalling state of Bendigo’s old graves and a desire to enlist help to clean them up.
At the time Miss Ross said she was "shocked, saddened and disgusted" to see the condition of the grounds, graves and headstones – many sunken and derelict with rubbish strewn around.
Remembrance Parks Central Victoria (RPCV - formerly Bendigo Cemeteries Trust) is prevented under the Cemeteries Act from financing grave maintenance.
Miss Ross suggested the community could help with a Clean Up a Cemetery Day.
"Cemeteries are a sacred site and part of our history and they should be given the respect they deserve," she said at the time.
RPCV praised Miss Ross’s idea and said a Clean Up Cemeteries Day concept was in its strategy.
Now the RPCV has announced the date for the first Clean Up Our Cemeteries Day in Bendigo on March 2.
The event will be held at all four RPCV sites - Bendigo Remembrance Park, Eaglehawk Remembrance Park, White Hills Remembrance Park and Kangaroo Flat Remembrance Park.
Registration is 8:30- 8:45am.
RPCV chief executive Graham Fountain said the aim of the day was to clean up rubbish and walking paths and to raise awareness about the importance of keeping cemeteries a neat and tidy place of remembrance into perpetuity”.
“We encourage members of the community to join in the day, bringing with them a pair of gloves, a garden rake (if they wish to assist with clearing the paths), a hat and sunscreen,” Mr Fountain said.
Yesterday Miss Ross welcomed the Clean Up Our Cemeteries Day announcement.
“I was wondering if something was going to happen,” she said.
She plans to set up a Facebook page inviting the community to “save a grave” - not just on the clean-up day but in their own time.
In a letter last week Miss Ross said she was cleaning up graves at Bendigo Cemetery, marking the graves she had cleaned with a bright ribbon.
“Due to the large number of graves that are in desperate need of attention and the fact that the ground maintenance staff and volunteers cannot do everything themselves, there is a need for some much-needed help,” she wrote.
“As the saying goes, ‘many hands make light work.’
“When you consider the population of Bendigo, this is achievable.
“I hope to encourage people of Bendigo to go along to the cemetery in their own time, be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly, generally whenever they can spare some time.
“All that people would need to do is be willing and take along some gloves, some plastic bags for the removal of rubbish, weeds, rocks, and sticks.
“Then simply choose a grave that needs to be cleaned and attach a ribbon once it is cleaned.”
A Bendigo Advertiser web poll last year asking "Should the community rally to restore historic graves?" had strong support.
Of 197 votes, 87 per cent said they supported community action to save Bendigo's old graves.
For further information on the Clean Up Our Cemeteries Day call RPCV on 5446 1566.