Rookwood Necropolis is one of the world’s largest burial grounds. The 283 hectare area of graves and memorials reflects the great diversity of people who were once part of Sydney’s ever expanding population. The earliest monument, saved from one of the first cemeteries of colonial Sydney, is dated 20 June 1798. It was brought to Rookwood in April 1869, two years and three months after the first burial took place and one year after Rookwood was established by Act of Parliament.
Rookwood Necropolis is distinguished as not only the largest, but also the most historically multicultural site in Australia. It is a physical expression of the rich social tapestry that forms our Nation today. Australia’s varied ethnic and religious identity formed by waves of immigration from the earliest colonial settlement is manifest in the hundreds of thousands of monuments and memorials. The descendents of each wave are now recorded in about half a million epitaphs as the cemeteries within continue to operate.
The age of Rookwood and the eclectic nature of its functions have generated a complex site now divided into thirteen separate areas managed two six cemetery trusts, the Rookwood Necropolis Trust and the Office of the Australian War Graves. Each of the two cemetery trusts is governed by a body of honorary trustees. These cemetery trusts manage, in effect, separate cemeteries for the burial of deceased members of various religions and Christian denominations, as well as a general cemetery area. There is also a general crematorium that is constructed on land that has been leased to the New South Wales Cremation Company Limited since 1926. The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust began operating a second crematorium on the site in 2007.
All trusts at Rookwood work under the authority of NSW Minister for Lands. The cemeteries are managed by:
- Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust
- Rookwood General Cemetery Reserve Trust
The Office of Australian War Graves, Canberra, manages the Sydney War Cemetery and the NSW Garden of Remembrance.
The New South Wales Cremation Company Limited is a fully owned subsidiary of Invocare Ltd.
In July 2010, the Rookwood Necropolis Trust replaced the Joint Committee of Necropolis Trustees, which formed in 1923 to manage infrastructure and common interests across the Necropolis. The Rookwood Necropolis Trust continues this role but under more flexible legislation that can assist management in facing the challenges of modern society in sustaining one of the nation’s great public assets.
As a suburb in its own right, Rookwood is located between Lidcombe, Strathfield and Greenacre, 15 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD. It is perched on ridges that form a watershed to Homebush Bay wetlands and Cooks River.