Casey Multi-Faith Network Bus Tour to Cemeteries

On a cold morning of Thursday 16 June 2016, twelve women from different faith and cultural backgrounds embarked a bus tour organised by the Casey Multifaith Network. It started of sunny but as the day progressed the clouds settled in and then it started pouring by the mid afternoon.

First stop, Springvale Botanic Cemetery at 10am, where the visitors were warmly greeted by the tour guide, Celestina, who has been in role at the Cemetery for twenty years and is no less than a resident historian. In her charming and humorous way, Celestina guided the bus expertly through the cemetery, guiding us to the crematorium first. With aid of photos, she explained how the crematorium first started out and progressed to its current modern facilities.

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Next, the tour visited the Buddhist section of the cemetery which is marked by the traditional monuments along with a large statue of the Buddha inside a temple. It was fascinating to learn the different rituals which are influenced by religious beliefs.

The bus drove around to other parts of the cemetery which included the Roman Catholic, Children’s area, Islamic area, old parts of the cemetery, the railway line that passed through as well as commemorative sections of the cemetery. Celestina pointed out the historic graves as well as those of local celebrities, sportsmen, politicians etc. She also pointed out the first grave, where a 7 year old child was buried in March 1902. The tour visited the Mausoleum section at the end of the tour, where the departed are buried above ground. The Springvale Botanic Cemetery hosted a delicious lunch at one of the function rooms located near the modern café Vita where visitors also got a chance to mingle and ask questions.

The next stop was the Bunurong Memorial Park in Bangholme and by the time the bus reached there, it had started to rain. The visitors were greeted by Meika, the tour guide, who also skilfully guided the bus while pointing out the main landmarks and cultural sections of the cemetery. She also pointed a scar tree, a site which is sacred to the local Indigenous people. The place of worship for the Greek Orthodox community stands as a significant landmark.

The Bunurong Memorial Park is less established in comparison to the Springvale Botanic Garden. It has all the modern facilities along with the main function room which can cater for up to 700 people, whether it is for a funeral or for a wedding. The Reflection Pool is another outdoor-indoor space located on a body of water and can be used for different events. At the end of the tour, all visitors indulged in a lovely afternoon tea after which the bus headed back to the drop off point.

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The tour was hosted by Southern Metropolitain Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) and one of their mottos is “cemeteries are for the living” which guides their planning for different communities. This motto was visible throughout the two sites visited, where the needs of the people who farewell their loved ones are catered to with deep regard and care. For example, in the children’s burial area, there is a playground, a carousel and balloon sculptures. 

The Casey Multifaith Network would like to formally thank the SMCT for hosting the tour, providing lunch and afternoon tea and for giving the visitors an insight into the workings of the cemeteries. The Network would also like to thank Cranbourne Transit for providing the bus and the bus driver Nigel, who was ever so helpful with the patrons.

It was a great day of learning and making new friends. We hope many others will join us on our next bus tour.