Robert O`Hara Burke & William John Wills Print Page Print this page

Burke + Wills Grave Monument
Burke + Wills Grave Monument

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson

The monument over the grave commemorates the explorers Robert O`Hara Burke and William John Wills, who perished on their ill-fated expedition of 1860 -1861. The remains of the explorers were brought to Melbourne by A. W. Howitt and on their grave was placed a monolith of Harcourt granite. A public funeral was held on the 21st January 1863 to inter their remains.

The monument was built by public subscription and a further plaque was erected by the Old Colonists Associationon the 20th August 1910 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their expedition.

In this month's issue we present our readers with a sketch of the monument now being erected over graves of Burke and Wills, in the Melbourne Public Cemetery. The necessary funds for erecting a suitable memorial to mark the last resting place of the ill-fated explorers were provided by the Victorian Parliament some time ago. Steps were immediately taken to give effect to the vote, and designs for the proposed monument were called for. Of those sent in Messrs. Huxley and Parker's was chosen. The monument, when finished, will consist of a huge monolith of granite, roughly hewn, measuring 12 ft. high, by 6 ft. square at the base, and tapering to 5ft. square at the summit. This block alone will weigh nearly 30 tons, and is, raised on a die, also formed of a single block, 3 ft. high and 8 ft. square, on which will be engraved appropriate inscriptions. The lower bases, or steps, will each project 18 in. all round, the bottom base of all over about 14 feet square of ground. The height of the monument will be 18 ft., and the massiveness and simplicity of its design will, we have no doubt, when completed, be calculated to properly impress beholders with a sense of its fitness to form a National Memorial of the Dead. 

The conveyance of the principal block, from the quarries at Harcourt to its present position was one of the most difficult undertakings ever effected in the colonies. The ponderous mass had first to be conveyed half a mile to the railway, where a truck specially designed for the purpose, was waiting to convey it to Melbourne. On its arrival there it was with much difficulty placed upon a truck drawn by thirty-six horses, for conveyance to the cemetery. Owing to difficulties which rose at every step, it took two days to travel the short distance of two miles, but at length arrived safely, and is now in process of completion. The position of the monument is the finest in the cemetery; it is on a elevation at the southern end, near the tombs of Sir Charles Hotham, Sir Robert Nickle, Colonel Neale, and the Hon. Mr. Heales a fit resting place midst the kindred dust of men who have been earnest toilers on the battle-field of life, and who, like the unfortunate explorers, have fallen victims in the discharge of their duty.
Illustrated Sydney News (NSW ), Monday 16 January 1865.


Address:College Crescent, Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, 3054
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.791667
Long: 144.962222
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People
Designer:Huxley & Parker


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:1865
Front Inscription

In memory of Robert O`Hara Burke and William John Wills     

(In Front of Grave) 

Erected by the Council of the Old Colonists Association of Victoria, 20th August 1910

The 50th anniversary of the starting of Burke & Wills from Melbourne for Coopers Creek, Queensland

20th August, 1860.

Left Side Inscription

The first to cross the continent of Australia.

King Survivor

Back Inscription

Comrades in a great achievement

Companions in death and associates in renown

Right Side Inscription

Leader and Second In Command of the Victoria Exploring Expedition

Died at Coopers Creek

June 1861.

Source: MA,MED,VMR
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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