Community & Business

16 July, 2023

Calls for fence in wake of grave vandal attack

MORE than 30 graves at Mareeba’s Pioneer Cemetery have been vandalised, prompting calls for a fence to be erected around the burial grounds and additional lighting to be installed to deter the culprits from attacking the facility again.

One of the graves at the Pioneer Cemetery that was attacked by vandals, smashing ornaments and vases.
One of the graves at the Pioneer Cemetery that was attacked by vandals, smashing ornaments and vases.

The Pioneer Cemetery is currently maintained by a community service team, who tackle the long grass and weeds to keep the grounds clean, and with the help of the Mareeba History FB group, also endeavour to determine who is buried in some of the un- named graves.

Mareeba History FB administrator Michael Musumeci said this was at least the fifth time the cemetery had been targeted by vandals.

“Over 30 graves were targeted on this occasion, with many glass vases smashed and destroyed to be then thrown all over many graves,” he said.

“Dirt, rocks, and many porcelain items, including cement vases, were also destroyed, thrown at other graves that has caused much damage.

“This is at least the fifth time the Mareeba Pioneer Cemetery has been subjected to such wilful damage and it clearly shows some have no respect for our past.”

Mr Musumeci said the cemetery was a “vast field” of Mareeba history that was “rarely shared or told”.

“The cemetery is full of some of our very first business people, pioneers, explorers, veterans and many young children who passed due to many sicknesses in the early 1900s,” he said.

“Also within the pioneer cemetery are many unnamed graves who came from abroad, as well as many aboriginal families in Mareeba that are still here today.

“The ongoing damage this cemetery continues to be subjected to, just highlights we have some individuals in our community who really don’t or won’t respect our local history.”

His sentiments were echoed by others who commented on the FB post about the vandalism.

“Despicable acts by brainless individuals. This/these individual/s responsible will one day reap what they are sowing,” cemetery volunteer Mladen Bosnic said.

“Law and order in this town is so far out of control that not even the deceased are safe. There will be no change until the greater community becomes active as a whole instead of sitting on their hands and waiting for everyone else to change things,” Barry Simpson wrote.

“This is just disgusting behaviour. So sorry for the families and the great community of volunteers who work so hard to maintain this, just so those little deadbeats can have five minutes of fun,” Evelyn Dobbins said.

“What is wrong with these clowns? Not only do they not have any respect for other people’s property, they also have no respect for those who have passed. Wonder what their reactions would be it these were their ancestors?” Michael Waters wrote.

Mr Musumeci is now pleading with Mareeba Shire Council to at least fence the cemetery and install better lighting.

“Perhaps a few of those security cameras on trailers could also assist to catch these individuals who continue to wreak havoc on this historical location,” he said.

Last week, Mr Musumeci’s spirits were lifted when he heard about a mum and her children turning up at the cemetery to help with the clean-up.

“Today we see Sharon Ariotti and her awesome kids rocking on up on their own accord and spending hours in the drizzling rain cleaning up all of the smashed glass and damage,” he said.

“This is what community spirit and being proud to live in Mareeba is all about. When others are tired and exhausted, other good folk step up, and take on the reins.”

Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin said the incident had saddened her and wanted to thank the resident who reported the vandalism to council.

“Council staff have visited the cemetery and have cleaned up the broken glass and vases. I encourage residents to continue to report cases of vandalism and graffiti, we cannot act on it if we do not know where it took place,” she said.

“A local volunteering group has contacted council to ask for possible improvements to the cemetery.

“We welcome discussions on how we can work together to maintain this significant site in our shire, and I have invited the group to come and meet with myself and the councillors.

“The group has not yet taken me up on the offer, but I hope to meet with them soon,” Mayor Toppin added.


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