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Wellington Pioneer cemetery graves inundated by floodwaters

Wednesday November 17, 2021 - 03:47 AEDT
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The headstones of graves have risen after floodwaters swept through Wellington Pioneer cemetery. - ABC

Wellington residents are calling for authorities to act to stop the Wellington Pioneer cemetery, located about 50 kilometres south-east from Dubbo, from flooding. 

Parts of the cemetery were inundated by floodwaters from the swollen Bell River on Friday night with many graves completely submerged.

Lynette Riley waded through knee-deep water to visit the grave of her son, on what would have been his 46th birthday.

"I went out to take some flowers out there and when I got out there he was underwater," she said.

Her son's grave was one of several family graves impacted by the flooding.

"Where my son is, his grandmother, his great-grandmother, and his great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather are buried there; and all of his aunties and uncles just behind him were under too," she said.

"I had to take the cross off my grandson's grave because it was loose and I thought if we didn't take it out, it would have been floating around the paddock somewhere."

Multiple flood events over the years

It is not the first time the family has dealt with flooding at the site.

In 2016 when the cemetery flooded, the headstone of Lynette's son was lifted out of the ground.

"My other son, the oldest one living now, he was the one that picked it up from the flood last time," she said.

"He had to put some dirt around it, fill it back in, and he repainted it and fixed it all up."

She said she wished she called for action then.

"I never thought I'd get anywhere with it because it's happened before and nothing has ever been done. I don't see how I could get anything done with just my voice."

Unable to keep them 'safe' in death

Anita Johnson said she was alerted to the situation when she saw photographs on a community Facebook page.

"I was able to pick up my grandfather's grave and my great grandmother's, and I became a little bit concerned with that," Ms Johnson said.

"I didn't think it would actually reach my brother and sister ? they died when they were babies ? but it did. They were to the point where you couldn't even see the top of their grave."

She said it was too late to salvage anything from the site.

"There were flowers and on the siblings' graves there were little ornaments and so forth," she said.

She said it was distressing to not be able to protect her family.

"When we bury our family members, one would think that they'd be safe even though they're deceased."

In a statement to the ABC, the Dubbo Regional Council said it was waiting on advice on which regulatory body is responsible for flood mitigation.


© ABC 2021

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