Sydneysiders slam rule for Rookwood Cemetery to be closed for visits

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Sydneysiders are now at risk of being fined for mourning their loved ones following the NSW government’s controversial decision to close the city’s biggest cemetery amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rookwood Cemetery, in Lidcombe, in the city’s west was closed to visitors last week after NSW Police declared that visiting the grave of a loved one would not be considered an essential reason to leave home.

However, the space is still allowed to be occupied for funerals of up to ten people, while police patrol the gates of the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere.

Georgia Maria Strazzeri is one of many that have been left devastated by the closure having lost her mother in 2015 and other friends and family since.

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She has visited the cemetery several times a week for the last six years and sees it as a place of ‘respite’ and a spot to clear her mind.

‘I just think (the closure) is nonsensical,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.  

‘I can go to Officeworks and buy things that I don’t think are essential but I can’t see my mum.

‘I just think that maybe they (the government) need to understand that some things are essential and others are not.’

Ms Strazzeri, who is a support worker, said some of her friends, such as one who lost her teenage daughter, visit Rookwood everyday and were equally as distressed and frustrated at the sudden change in rules.

She said the closure of such a communal and popular cemetery would push people to travel to other potentially more risky places to get out of their house. 

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‘I can understand if there was a large congregation gathering there, but I wasn’t doing that,’ she said.

‘Somewhere like Rookwood offers a place of respite and gives people the psychological feeling of being with their loved ones.’

Another local, Angelique Jasli, has since taken it upon herself to create a petition calling on the cemetery to be open for visitors.

She said some other sites around the city were still allowing residents to pay their respects. 

‘In a time where people in our community are the most vulnerable, afraid and isolated that they have ever been before to CLOSE Rookwood Cemetery for visits has an enormous impact on the mental health of people who have lost loved ones and find peace only by visiting and caring for their graves,’ she said.

‘Imagine having recently lost an immediate family member, having to bury them with the current restrictions and now being locked out of the cemetery where you have just laid their body to rest.

‘Entry to visit should be granted on compassionate grounds at the very least.’   

Under current Covid restrictions Sydney residents can attend a funeral or memorial service with a maximum of ten people.

NSW Health and NSW Police have been contacted for comment. 

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