BURIED in an unmarked grave, orphans, widows, single mothers and unmarried women who died at Bendigo's St Aidan's Orphanage have long been forgotten. But a dedicated group hopes to honour their memories.
Fifty-three people were buried in the orphanage's grave at Bendigo Cemetery between 1907 and 1977.
Just one small plaque marked their resting place. Some people's names were misspelled. Two people interred were not mentioned at all.
But a small group from Bendigo honouring the people buried there by restoring the grave to create a fitting memorial.
St Aidan's Grave Restoration and Beautification Group chair Len Williams said the idea was to mark where each person lay, to show that they were individuals.
A large concrete slab with three tiers marked the grave of the orphanage for decades. But concreters have begun works to rip up the covering slab, which will be replaced by polished concrete, similarly tiered, overlaid with a memorial design.
About half of the people interred were over 70.
Mr Williams said St Aidan's gave care to the likes of single mothers, as well as orphaned children.
"These people would have had no other place to go, and they lived their whole lifetime [there]," Mr Williams said
The orphanage was set up by Sisters of the Good Shepherd from Melbourne's Abbotsford Convent in 1904, on 40 acres.
It was a refuge for women as well as children.
Memorial designer Lee Adams said a corten steel design would be laid over the concrete, like a sun with a focal point representing home and rays radiating to individual graves.
A stone wall will surround part of the grave so people can sit and reflect.
"It's really open to people who might have people buried here, or know something about St Aidan's," Mrs Adams said.
"It's of huge significance to Bendigo, the site."
Mrs Adams said each person's name, date of birth and death would sit above their burial place.
To create the final design Mrs Adams spoke to restoration group members, and reflected on the people buried.
"[It's] just representing that they were all somewhere together and that was sort of their home. Whatever happened, it's just recognising and honouring them, all those people," she said.
"It was actually really emotional doing it, just thinking about all these people and what their lives would have been like back then. It was pretty amazing to be able to do it."
Researcher Kath Martin has pieced together a history of every person buried in the grave.
Mrs Martin searched cemetery records, undertakers' records and newspaper clippings to discover what she could about the lives of those buried.
Nurse Jean Lowrie was among those laid to rest in Bendigo Cemetery. Miss Lowrie was born in 1876, Kara Kara, south of St Arnaud.
She trained as a nurse in 1902, working in New Zealand, Western Australia and Queensland.
Miss Lowrie enlisted in 1915, serving in the Australian Army Nursing Service on board the RMS Kashgar. She returned to Australia in 1916.
After nursing in Queensland and Perth, she lived on Queen Street, Bendigo, from 1942.
Miss Lowrie entered the convent in 1947.
Mrs Martin makes sure the life details, names and dates, of those buried are correct.
"They varied in age from little babies right through to old ladies. So you've got to do something for them," Mrs Martin said.
"Same with everybody in the cemetery. They've got a name, they've got an individual headstone, they need to be recognised. They were people."
Mr Williams said the St Aidan's Grave Restoration and Beautification Group began with a thought, "Someone should do something".
Read more: Orphanage development gets go ahead
It was taken up by a small group of Bendigo residents, all passionate about the project.
They've met people whose families were buried there in the process.
It's taken about 18 months for the group to get everything ready to begin. They hoped to have the concrete slab poured by Friday.
The design work on the grave is likely to begin in 2020.
Mr Williams himself got involved after a lifetime seeing the iconic St Aidan's building loom over Kennington. He said it didn't seem right that residents there were forgotten in death like they had been in life.
"[The grave] looked like a car park, and not reflective of a whole lot of individuals being buried here," Mr Williams said.
"They're individuals, they're not just a group. They were a little bit probably forgotten in their day, the very fact that they were in an institution like that. Individuals disappeared as soon as they went into a big organisation.
"But we now can show some respect, to recognise them as individuals."
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