On Thursday 27 February 2020, the first sod at Macarthur Memorial Park was turned by key members of the NSW government and community leaders including Chairman of the Muslim Cemeteries Board, Kazi Ali, Chairman of Cemeteries & Crematoria NSW, Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, CEO of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, Mr Peter O’Meara and CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff together with an indigenous smoking ceremony led by Aboriginal elder Uncle Ivan.
Construction will commence later in March on a world-class memorial and parkland destination at Varroville in south-west Sydney, providing the people of Campbelltown with passive recreation areas, gardens and landscaped walkways that will be accessible to everyone in the community.
The parklands will also feature a new memorial park with 136,000 burial plots to be established over the next 100 years, partly fulfilling the pressing need for space in Sydney’s rapidly growing and diverse multi-cultural population.
The burial plots will be discreetly positioned in “burial rooms” behind hedges that will be higher than the headstones located behind them.
CEO of the not-for-profit Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, Mr Peter O’Meara said “We are delighted to commence the construction of these new parklands, which will feature facilities for the local community such as lakes, walking tracks and café, creating a place of peace and reflection for the whole community.”
“We will be adopting a successful overseas model where memorial parklands are now quiet and beautiful places for all the family, with groves of trees, lakes and open space. For all intents and purposes they are not cemeteries but beautiful open spaces”, he further added.
Chairman of the Muslim Cemeteries Board, Mr Kazi Ali said the lack of burial space has created a real crisis for his community with Riverstone Cemetery down to its last two spots “the Muslim community has been very worried about future burial space in Sydney. Was it not for Catholic Cemeteries agreeing to provide over 4000 burial spaces for the Muslim community at Kemps Creek we would have been in a dire situation. This is a wonderful example of the ongoing interfaith collaboration between our organisations.”
The Chairman of the Catholic Cemeteries Board, the Hon Greg Smith said the project had been 8 long years in the making and “the ground-breaking landscape and architectural design will make Macarthur Memorial Park the unique, innovative and most visually stunning memorial park in Australia”.
He further added that Macarthur Memorial Park will be the first large scale memorial park built in Sydney since the 1960’s and “no other cemetery trust in Sydney has been able to deliver such a remarkable memorial park that will ensure the interment practices and beliefs of all religious and cultural groups present here today will be respected and provided for.”