Harkaway Cemetery

A short history of Harkaway Cemetery

The Land Title of the Harkaway Cemetery is part of Section 8 Parish of Berwick, County of Mornington. The original Parish Plan for the entire area surrounding the Township of Berwick was established in 1840. It was not until 1853 that the government auctioned off parcels of land generally consisting of one square mile each (640 acres). Section 8 was one such parcel and this parcel was purchased by Robert Gardiner who subsequently subdivided this land into two parts. Ernst Gottlob Wanke purchased the northern portion of Section 8 {318 acres) from Robert Gardiner on 20th February 1856. This part of Section 8 was subsequently subdivided by Ernst Gottlob Wanke. Gottlieb Schache purchased the south east portion totalling 106 acres. The south west corner of his land totalling 3 acres was eventually subdivided off on 3rd Cemetery.

June 1873 to create what is now known as the Harkaway Johann Gottlieb Wanke purchased 20 acres from his younger brother, Ernst Gottlob Wanke on ih December 1858, the land being located adjacent to the west boundary of Gottlieb Schache's land. On 11th December 1869, Johann Gottlieb Wanke conveyed in Trust a parcel of land measuring 100 feet by 100 feet for the sum of one pound for the purpose of a Chapel School. This small parcel of land was located on the south east corner of Johann Gottlieb Wanke's land.

Correspondence dated 3rd June 1873 held by the Department of Human Services confirms the land position and size in a memorialising deed is conveyed for the purpose of a public cemetery under the name "ZIONS HILL" - the document was signed by Gottlieb Schache. It has not been established when the cemetery changed its name to Harkaway Cemetery. The name change most likely occurred when the original Harkaway Cemetery Plan was prepared by G. W Robinson. This plan allocated particular areas to local families who lived in the area, predominately German immigrants. It could be assumed that prior to the preparation of the plan, burials took place in an ad hoc manner on the land. On 20th September 1905, the Victorian Government Gazette recorded the land as a cemetery within the Cemeteries Act of 1890. Harkaway Cemetery Trust members at the time were I Wanke, F Barr, GW Robinson, E Hillbrick and J Durling.

Early Burial records were lost in a house fire at Gibb Street Berwick on 6t h August 1956 so it cannot be confirmed when the first burial took place. From headstones there were two adults and twenty children buried by 1869 and it was reported that over 100 burials had taken place by 1905. The earliest clear headstone date is 15 September 1863 for Henrietta Koenig.

Five generations (total eight members) of the Wanke family have served as trustees and by 2011 thirty three members of the family have been buried there. The Hillbrich family has twenty two family members buried there and three served as trustees, while the Aurisch family has fourteen members buried there, two served as trustees. Two members of the Barr family served as trustees. In recent times Ray Exell and Len Wanke, who are cousins and also the great great grandsons of Ernst Gottlob Wanke continue the family links by both contributing significantly to the cemetery. Ray and Len were life members of the Harkaway Cemetery Trust with Ray serving the cemetery for over fifty five years, Len for 49 years.

Across the road from the Cemetery stands the bell tower, built in 1869, restored in 1935, and refurbished again in 1974. The bell was imported from Germany at a cost of 16 pounds and once erected was christened "Concordia" by Pastor Herlitz. The Lutheran community built the first school and church on the site as the government of the time would not provide either a church or a school. The church was used as a school class room until 1883 when the Harkaway School was constructed. The bell is still rung each New Year's Eve, and whenever there is a funeral it tolls when the approaching cemetery hearse is sighted, ceasing when the funeral cortege is inside the cemetery.

In 1962 the memorial to Oscar Wanke family erected the memorial gates and pillars as a the districts pioneers. The cemetery is divided by a gravel path from west to east, to the left of the front gates are two large Cypresses and a White Cypress Pine, at the base is a large boulder with a plaque acknowledging the long service of Alan Wanke 1923-1998 as a cemetery trustee. Melaleuca trees, Hawthorn bushes, and agapanthus line the boundary fences. As you enter the front gates, you walk past the old family graves of the early settlers. There is no formal demarcation into different faiths as this was an inclusive community that supported one another.

In 1971 it was recognised by the cemetery trustees that a revision of the original plan was required. The families of several of the original German settlers who had been allocated family plots had left the district, and possibly Victoria. These plots were not likely to be used. Complications with recording the exact burial sites of  deceased persons were also encountered. Len Wanke undertook the task of locating existing unmarked graves, surveying the site, and producing a new plan and a new burial register in duplicate. From the original 45 plots, 910 individual plots were created in the monumental section. This new plan dated 1973 remained in use until 2008.

Prior to the mid 1990's all graves were dug by hand. When mechanical excavators became the norm it was realised that a revision to the 1973 plan would be required to ensure access ways to grave sites could be maintained. Plans for a Lawn Cemetery and Memorial Garden began in the year 2000. On the 25t h November 2002, land located to the east of the cemetery was acquired from the City of Casey to allow for the creation of a lawn graves. In 2008 Len Wanke completed a topographical survey of the expanded cemetery and produced a new monumental grave layout. The new plan of the monumental section now has 912 grave sites, 2 more than the 1973 plan. The City of Casey were engaged to prepare and approve the Overall Master Development Plan for the expanded cemetery, this plan is now the basis for all future development within the cemetery. In the last few decades, the City of Casey has continued to provide support to the HCT, and now B & HCT, the support extends to the inspection of structural integrity and any necessary rectification works when required on the bell tower. During the years 2013 and 2014, the Harkaway Cemetery Trust initiated several discussions with the Berwick Cemetery Trust with a view to amalgamate both Trusts. A review and business case including a public meeting was completed in 2014 and a recommendation was presented to the Department of Health, Cemeteries and Crematorium Unit. The recommendation was for the Harkaway Cemetery Trust to be abolished and that Harkaway to be managed by Berwick Cemetery Trust, with a name change to Berwick and Harkaway Cemeteries Trust. This recommendation was accepted and approved by Governor in Council and gazetted on 30th October 2014.

Harkaway Cemetery

202 Hessel Road, Harkaway, VIC 3806
Melways Reference: 111 B1