A Grave Look at History

The Australian Perspective


  • Catherine Brew Red Plait Interpretation LLP, University of the Highlands and Islands




Australian cemeteries, cultural landscape, identity, intangible heritage, meaning


Cemeteries are seldom what they seem. A headstone tells a brief tale, but what if there are no headstones? Is it possible to extract more than the obvious? The dearth of information most frequently encountered necessitates a more interpretive approach. As documents of social history, Australian burial places have a great capacity to reveal not only how people died, but how they lived. In providing a tangible and evocative link to past communities, the history found in cemeteries acts as an insightful ingredient in shaping cultural identity. By ‘reading’ these cultural landscapes, the wider implications of identity, meaning making and the value of individual belonging and wellbeing can be explored. The notion of ‘place making’ and ‘place meaning’ suggests a bigger responsibility to social cohesion and personal development than may be first considered.


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Author Biography

Catherine Brew, Red Plait Interpretation LLP, University of the Highlands and Islands

Catherine Brew is a partner at Red Plait Interpretation LLP. Having trained as a landscape architect, but with an interest in cultural/historical landscapes, Catherine specializes in the interpretation and management of cemeteries. She has worked on a diverse selection of cemeteries in Australia and in the UK and enjoys researching and “reading” the landscape. Catherine has won awards for her work with indigenous communities in Australia and is currently undertaking an MSc Interpretation: Management and Practice through the University of the Highlands and Islands. She is a member of the Association for Heritage Interpretation and Interpretation Australia.


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How to Cite

Brew, C. (2013). A Grave Look at History: The Australian Perspective. Fieldwork in Religion, 8(2), 188–198. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.v8i2.188