article and documents contributed by John Stewart
The origins of the cemetery at Mount Duneed lie in a petition from local residents. The petition, dated 7th October 1861, was signed by Joseph Williams and about 25 other "residents in East Duneed and in portions of the parish of Puebla and Connewarre". They sought to have portion of the Mount Duneed Reserve set aside for a cemetery because "The nearest existing cemetery is at Germantown, distant upwards of three miles; its area is small and sufficient only for the probable requirements of the population of its neighbourhood."
The relevant items of correspondence to the Board of Land and Works, to whom the petition was addressed, are held in the files of the Department of Health at the Public Record Office, Victoria. Although there is no outward correspondence, the response of the Board can be inferred from file notes made on the original letters.
The Board response to the petition, dated 21st December 1861, was to point out that the cemetery at Germantown was within three miles of the Mount Duneed Reserve and so the request was denied.
On May 19th 1862 Joseph Williams wrote back, saying "We have since ascertained that the Germantown cemetery is private property, purchased and used exclusively for the German population, and that no reserve has been made by Government in this portion of the country."
After considerable delay, in early 1863 the Board decided to establish a public cemetery at Germantown and proposed that it consist of three acres in the North-East corner of the Connewarre Reserve at Germantown. (This is the land which the Grovedale Fire Brigade now occupies). The land was formally set aside by an announcement in the Victorian Government Gazette of 20th February 1863.
The next letter on the file is from the South Barwon Shire Council, dated 31st March 1863. The Council didn't want another cemetery at Germantown (which they would have to maintain) and asked that the proposal be cancelled. Joseph Williams also wrote (on 14th May) saying that the Germantown proposal wasn't what was desired and repeated the plea for Mount Duneed Reserve. Presumably not getting a reply, he repeated the plea on July 13th.
It seems that the local residents were frustrated at the delay, or concerned that they were to be denied. Another petition, this time with around 130 signatures, was sent to the Board on 18th September, reiterating their desire for a cemetery at Mount Duneed. The Board relented and, on the 28th September, decided to withdraw the proposed Germantown site and set aside land on the Mount Duneed recreation reserve, the site of the present cemetery. This decision was Gazetted on 9th October, 1863.
The next letter, written on 31st December 1863, was from William Landale, "one of the Trustees." It appears that Trustees were "appointed by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, at a public meeting". Landale wanted to know if their appointment "is confirmed or not". But the real reason for Landale's letter became apparent in his second paragraph:
"The reason we are anxious about this matter is because there are two bodies already interred in the open grounds granted for a cemetery and four in the Wesleyan Chapel grounds near at hand. These last will be removed to the new grounds as soon as the arrangements are completed, and further, if there should be much more delay, great inconvenience and confusion may be the consequence on account of the ground not being laid out."
Following prior advertisement in the Geelong Advertiser an official public meeting was held at the Yarborough Inn on 26th January 1864 for the purpose of appointing Trustees. The cemetery was surveyed in July, 1864.
We will probably never know who were the first two people buried in the cemetery grounds before the end of December, 1863. Early church burial registers have not survived. An attempt was made by the Geelong Cemeteries Trust in the 1990s to identify early burials from headstone inscriptions, and from hospital, undertaker and newspaper records. However not all burials were identified or correctly located.
The Geelong Cemeteries Trust has for some time (to August 2019) stated that the first burial at Mount Duneed was on 23rd October, 1864. The person concerned can be identified in their database as Henry Brien. It turns out that Henry Brien actually died a year earlier,. As this is soon after the cemetery ground was Gazetted, it could be inferred that he was one of the first two burials. His death certificate states that his burial was on the 26th October, 1863, in “cemetery Duneed” which could mean either the existing Duneed cemetery at Mount Moriac or the new cemetery ground at Mount Duneed. However, as there is evidence that the family were Wesleyans, and as Henry is said to be buried in the Methodist (Wesleyan) Section, he may have initially been interred in the Chapel grounds.
The only other local 1863 death found to date is for Hannah Williams, on 19th December. As Hannah’s headstone is towards the centre of the Methodist section, it is possible that she, also, was first interred in the Wesleyan Chapel grounds. On the other hand, the instigator of the first petition was her husband, Joseph, which seems to increase the likelihood of her being interred in the new cemetery ground.
 PROV, VPRS 14836/P0001 unit 97, item H.CEM.350 MOUNT DUNEED Public Cemetery, General Correspondence Files, Department of Health.
 Geelong Cemeteries Trust (http://www.gct.net.au/our-cemeteries/Mount-Duneed-Cemetery/). Accessed 5th Dec. 2017.
 PROV, VPRS 28/ P2 Probate and Administration Files. Henry BRIEN: Date of death: 23 Oct 1863; Occupation: Farmer; Residence: Duneed
 Justice Department, State Government of Victoria, "Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria," database(https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj). D. cert. [Extract] Henry Brien, 1863. Accessed 5th Dec. 2017.
 Geelong and District Churches database CD, 2012. Ed. Susie Zada, Geelong and District Historical Association. BRIEN, William, Freshwater Creek, baptised 1865, Wesleyan Circuit.
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