Home > National News > International Women’s Day to mark the celebration of Australia’s first Saint

International Women’s Day to mark the celebration of Australia’s first Saint

2012 International Women’s Day on 8 March will see the installation of a specially commissioned sculpture of one of Australia’s most famous women at Melbourne General Cemetery.

On Thursday, the intricate, bronze, life-sized sculpture of our newly sainted Sister Mary MacKillop will be installed at the cemetery’s architecturally groundbreaking Saint Mary of the Cross Mausoleum.

It will provide a focal point at Melbourne’s most historic and prestigious cemetery, located adjacent to the heritage listed Gatehouse and also the Prime Ministers Garden, being the final resting place of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, James Henry Scullin, Sir John Grey Gorton and the memorial to Harold Holt.

Sculptor is internationally acclaimed, Julie Squires, recent Newton-John award-winner and sculptor of the Peter Brock Memorial.

Squires’ work is held in collections in Europe, China and the UK and includes 20 Public Art Commissions in Australia.

Saint Mary of The Cross Mausoleum

With demand for land far exceeding supply at Melbourne General Cemetery, the construction of the architecturally ground breaking Saint Mary of the Cross Mausoleum will provide the last major opportunity for the general public to be laid to rest at this prized location.

Jonathan Tribe, CEO of Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which administers the cemetery said ”Knowing that land’s very difficult for us to find in below-ground burials, this will give us an opportunity to keep the cemetery in good condition for the community.”

Named in honour of Sister Mary MacKillop, with permission from the Sisters of St Joseph, the full public release is scheduled for 2 April with the official blessing and exclusive invite-only event planned for 20 April, officiated by Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart.

There is already a steady waiting list for the crypts, with demand expected to be high.

Sales of available graves in the past have attracted long queues with people staying overnight to secure their place, creating significant media attention.

Melbourne General Cemetery is administered by the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT), which is funding the $9m project through revenue generated by more active cemeteries within their care.

The Trust also administers Brighton General, Bunurong Memorial Park, Cheltenham Memorial Park, Cheltenham Pioneer, Dandenong Public and St Kilda cemeteries.

Once completed, the sale of the crypts will cover the construction costs and generate funds to provide for the future maintenance of Melbourne General Cemetery.

Jonathan Tribe said, “As vacant land within the cemetery is a scarce resource, the mausoleum has been designed on two levels to maximise the use of the land and in turn extend the life of the cemetery.

This multi-million dollar commitment from the Trust will ensure that this historic cemetery is able to continue to provide for the community.”

This is the first time the Trust will be building a mausoleum with an underground level.

However, when the Roman Catholic Chapel, which is within the grounds of the cemetery, was built in the 1870s and 1880s, provision was made for Roman Catholic clergy to be interred in underground crypts beneath the chapel.

To date 332 priests have been interred, the most recent in October 2011.

The planning and design of the Saint Mary of the Cross Mausoleum involved a lengthy process of review.

As part of this process Heritage Victoria, the City of Melbourne, National Trust and members of the public were invited to discuss the development prior to approval.

The approved development providing 1,077 casket spaces, features sheltered crypts adorned with natural finishes, including granites, bluestone, timbers and leadlight.