Australian Muslims from the state of New South Wales are relieved after the state government allotted land for thousands of new graves inside Australia’s largest cemetery to ease an acute shortage of burial space expected to hit Sydney’s Islamic community within months.

The 3.3 hectare site, the last major portion of land left inside Rookwood Necropolis, will be split evenly between the Muslim and Jewish communities to address their shrinking cemetery space and meet their burial needs beyond the next decade.

The chairman of Rookwood’s Muslim Cemetery Trust, Ahmad Kamaledine, said after years of working to secure cemetery space beyond a couple of hundred burial plots at a time, yesterday’s announcement of the new allotment for the Islamic community was ”overwhelming”.

”For the last 30, 40 years frankly we’ve been living, or burying our dead, on handouts,” he said.

The trust had been granted 800 burial plots at Rookwood by the former state government in 2010, but at about 350 burials a year, this space was not expected to last much longer.

”I mean, in six months’ [time] we had nowhere to bury our dead,” he said.

Half of the lot 10 site at Rookwood will be used for 6000 double-depth Islamic graves, meeting the community’s needs for the next 15 to 20 years, Mr Kamaledine said.

The remainder will be used for 3000 single Jewish burial plots, to be protected in perpetuity, extending the community’s 10 to 15 years’ worth of available burial space by a decade.
The bulk of the $6 million needed to develop lot 10 will be covered by funds made available after amalgamating six of the cemetery’s seven trusts – the first change in the way the state’s cemeteries and crematoria are managed. Only the Catholic Cemeteries Board is to remain separate.

The Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, said the government was recruiting a new NSW Cemeteries and Crematoria Board chair to oversee the changes.

She said the new legislation would enshrine the religious requirements of different faith groups, such as a need for perpetual burial.