St. John’s Online

Director: Michaela Ann Cameron

St. John’s Online is an online database for Australia’s oldest surviving European cemetery, which was established in January 1790 in an old stock paddock on the outskirts of Parramatta, the land of the Dharug People’s Burramattagal clan. Thenceforth, it became the final resting place of over 50 First Fleeters, a multitude of convicts, soldiers, pioneers and colonial elites who were immortalised in place names in Parramatta and surrounds, Governors’ wives, women and children who died at the Parramatta Female Factory, orphans who passed away at the Orphan Schools at Parramatta and Liverpool, as well as patients from the nearby convict hospitals and various mental health institutions in the colony — to highlight just a few major groups that are well represented in this historic cemetery.

American and Australasian Photographic Company, “St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta, around July 1870,” (1870). Courtesy of Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.

Originally a non-denominational cemetery, St. John’s is also a place of diversity that provides a more nuanced view of the early colony and the town of Parramatta specifically, with Aboriginal, Jewish, Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Romani, African American, German, Dutch, and French people buried here as well as British Anglicans. This State Heritage listed site, then, is significant not just for Parramatta, New South Wales, or even Australian history, but for World History.

The database brings to life once more the stories of the people buried herein. Start reading those stories in the “Old Parramattans” collection, funded by a Create NSW Arts and Cultural Grant, a City of Parramatta grant, and a small heritage grant from the Royal Australian Historical Society with funds from the Office of Environment and Heritage.