An end to 34-year saga: Finals stones laid at Aboriginal burial ground at Moree Cemetery

Cemetery maintenance officers Norman Duke and Colin Andrews next to Aunty Noeline Briggs-Smith OAM, Moree Landscape Tracy Donald and Jeffrey Muggleton.
Cemetery maintenance officers Norman Duke and Colin Andrews next to Aunty Noeline Briggs-Smith OAM, Moree Landscape Tracy Donald and Jeffrey Muggleton.

The Aboriginal burial ground at Moree Cemetery now stands completed, after the final stones were laid at the site on Tuesday.

“I finally feel like it’s a job done. It has taken me nearly 34 years to see this part of the cemetery come to fruition,” Aunty Noeline Briggs-Smith OAM said.

The sandstone blocks were placed at the foot of the Ngindi Baababili Tubbiabri sign, followed with a carpet of pebbles. Aunty Noeline said the sandstone matched the type of rocks at the Tranquility Area.

The laying of the stones closes off more than a three-decade saga, during which time Aunty Noeline has sought to restore identities to more than 200 previously unmarked Aboriginal grave sites.

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“It’s a relief to know all are now resting in eternal sleep and that people from the community can come and visit their relatives at the final resting places,” Aunty Noeline said.

Between 1940 and 1968, deceased Aboriginal people in the Moree community were buried without adequate markings. Many identities were lost in the passage of time and numerous floods.

“In 1983 on my return to Moree I visited this Aboriginal section in the cemetery and was appalled at its neglected state, with graves being washed away in an area that resembled a paddock,” Aunty Noeline said.

With the identities restored, Aunty Noeline was left to give the finishing touches to the beautification of the cemetery.

Cemetery maintenance officer Norman Duke was on hand on the Tuesday morning to help arrange the sandstone blocks. 

He noted that he had great grandparents and grandparents buried at the cemetery, and that he only knew about it because of his position.

“I was able to go through burial records and see which relatives of mine were buried here. For the younger community, they wouldn’t have known where their ancestors were buried: some of them wouldn’t have even known they had an ancestor buried here.”