Guardians of History – The Friends of Toowong Cemetery

Guardians of a Treasure Trove of History 

The Friends of Toowong Cemetery have been the guardians of over 46,000 graves and their stories for 30 years.  

The group was formed by Cr Judy Magub in 1994 to maintain and restore graves with the permission of families, share histories and stories, connect people with their ancestors, and educate the community through guided and self-guided walks.  

Darcy Maddock became president in 2012, and leads a group of 15 volunteers, 4 of which are active.  

“New volunteers are welcome! It’d be good to get some help doing more physical work. We are very busy,” Mr Maddock said.  

The area was sectioned off to be a cemetery in 1861, before which, part of it was an Aboriginal corroboree ground.  

The cemetery’s first burial was the second Governor of Queensland, Colonel Samuel Blackhall’s in 1871. He is buried on Mount Blackhall, overlooking Brisbane and now filled with other prominent colonists such as Captain Bligh’s grandson Colonel Sir Maurice O’Connell.

The cemetery is home to the graves of many famous or influential people including: 

  • The Petrie family 
  • Canon Garland, the founder of ANZAC Day  
  • Emma Miller, champion of Queensland’s current voting system (one person = one vote, women included), suffragette, early member of trade union movement 
  • Multiple war heroes, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans   
  • Dr Lilian Violet Cooper, Queensland’s first female doctor and Cooper electorate’s namesake 
  • Harold “Russ” Maddock, 1959 “Jockey of the Century” and Mr Maddock’s father  

Mr Maddock said, “It’s an incredibly diverse cemetery. We have people from almost every background you can think of.”  

A major part of the Friends’ work is restoring graves whose headstones had been demolished as part of a 1970s Brisbane City Council initiative, ordered by Lord Mayor Clem Jones, to transform Brisbane’s cemeteries into open parkland.  

“We have recovered quite a few headstones from the creek that runs through the cemetery, as they had been used as filler. Most were smashed, but we have pieced together those that we could, and, with guidance from the families, have restored some to their corresponding graves,” he said.  

The Friends hold a map of all the graves in the cemetery, including the ones now without headstones, and can assist anyone who wants to find their family.  

The Friends offer guided walks on the first Sunday of each month from 10:30am-12:00pm, and they are also updating their self-guided walks.  

“Some of them have inaccuracies we are in the process of correcting, but for now, you can still use the old self-guided walks on our website,” Mr Maddock said.  

For more stories or to get in touch, visit 

Author and Photographer: Evie Drinnan

Cover image: Mr Maddock at Mt Blackhall, overlooking the Toowong Cemetery.