Costa Georgiadis helps to celebrate a greener Melbourne General Cemetery

Project Cultivate Costa Georgiadis
Brendan Rees

A community celebration has been held for a ground-breaking program aimed at transforming the natural landscape of the
historic Melbourne General Cemetery.

Known as Project Cultivate, the works involve planting locally native plants and grasses to revitalise cemetery sites in previously desolate and unplanted areas of the grounds while complementing surrounding monuments, pathways and facilities.

To mark the completion of the first phase of the project and its ongoing establishment at Melbourne General Cemetery, community members, Traditional Owners and project partners gathered on February 16 for a ceremony to celebrate the milestone occasion.

Speaking at the event was ABC’s Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis, who described Project Cultivate as “nation-building”.

“The opportunity for us to turn this space into a horticultural asset and take real action is priceless,” he said.


I know what this means, and how important biodiversity is for the future of our cities. This [Project Cultivate at Melbourne General Cemetery] is an asset for the city that can build biodiversity and be a model for it.



Initiated by the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) in early 2023, the Project Cultivate area has now been planted with 127,000 local indigenous grasses, wildflowers and groundcover species.

This has been made possible thanks to a dedicated project crew, local community garden groups and other stakeholders, including primary schools, politicians and the University of Melbourne.

The project began with community conversations followed by an application of nearly 1500 cubic metres of organic mulch – the equivalent of mulching the MCG to a depth of seven centimetres – covering more than 31 per cent of suitable space at Melbourne General Cemetery.

Project Cultivate has also reduced herbicide use, lowered ambient air temperatures in planted areas and improved soil quality, with visible rises in biodiversity.

SMCT trust chair Dr Vanda Fortunato said the initiative was important to “ensuring that the historical significance of Melbourne General Cemetery is preserved for us, and future generations”.

“This project embodies our dedication to investing in the natural environment, enhancing local biodiversity with locally native plants and grasses,” she said.

“Each plant sown is a step towards a greener and more sustainable version of Melbourne General Cemetery.”

The community celebration featured a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Elder Perry Wandin and presentations from Mr Georgiadis and City of Melbourne Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece.

SMCT horticultural assets manager Helen Tuton, who has been driving the program on the ground, expressed her excitement.

“This is biodiversity and sustainability in action: it’s meaningful and tangible and encompasses everything we’re about as an organisation,” she said.

“To be able to continue regenerating some of Victoria’s grassland habitats is incredibly exciting.”

A second area has been added to the pilot program, with mulching taking place from November last year and planting due to begin in May.

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