Avondale SDA Cemetery

20 Central Road Cooranbong NSW 2265
Three people were buried in 1899, including Elsie Gates, whose accidental death is well known. With Sarah Peck and Ella Boyd, Elsie was returning from a visit to Ellen White’s home, Sunnyside, along ‘Girls Walk’ when the horse balked and backed itself and the gig into Dora Creek. Sarah Peck and Ella Boyd were able to escape but Elsie Gates was trapped and drowned. Fred Reekie, the farm manager, was quickly on the scene but unable to rescue Elsie and had to convey the sad news to her brother, Pastor EH Gates, when he later arrived on campus. Another person buried at Avondale in the early years of the cemetery was Rhae Allbon. Her tombstone is simply inscribed, ‘Rhae’, and when the question was raised as to why no further information was provided the answer was that she was so well known it was unnecessary!

The early gravediggers worked at night when their regular employment for the day was over and during its first decade there were only a handful of burials but from around 1990 the cemetery has averaged around fifty burials annually. Some have wondered why the cemetery was not located closer to the College central campus and the answer is twofold. The cemetery site is close to the almost adjacent Memorial church and also between it and the main college campus there is a significant belt of sandstone too close to the surface to make use of that land for burial purposes.

only to care for the final needs of church members but to also keep the cost to a minimum and also properly care for the grounds. Another intention of the Trust was to put the Cemetery in a self-supporting financial position so that the local churches no longer had to subsidise its operation. This new program worked well and the Constitution was later amended and updated in 1959 and also 1971 to reflect changing needs.

For many years a group of Newcastle undertakers, all members of the Funeral Directors Association, were unhappy that they were not permitted to bury in the Avondale SDA Cemetery.  Their main objection was that the Funeral Director at Avondale was not a member of their Association and attempted to close the Cemetery. The reality is that with their fees, any funerals they conducted would have been much more expensive. At this point, the Cemetery Trust Secretary proposed that a hearse be purchased and that the Avondale Funeral Director be available for cheaper funerals wherever needed and the critics quickly backed off. Later efforts were again made to close the Cemetery including, for a time, blacklisting Oaklands Manufacturing, an industry on the Avondale College property which made caskets and coffins for the Avondale Cemetery and other organisations in the funeral industry.

History of Avondale SDA Cemetery

In the early colonial history of the state of New South Wales in Australia, it was customary for each denomination to have its own burial ground, typically adjacent to their church. With the establishment of Avondale College in 1897 the early Adventists in the community felt they needed to have their own cemetery. While there is no documentation of the original gift of an acre of land by the College for a cemetery, the first burial took place in June 1898 when Brother ER Tucker was laid to rest. The second person buried was William Sumpter who had come down from Queensland for treatment at the Summer Hill Sanitarium and later moved to Cooranbong where he died in December 1898.

From the very beginning the Cemetery has employed its own Funeral Director, always an Adventist. One of the best remembered of these was GF Bohringer who held the position for about 20 years and he was then followed by GM Radley before his son, EG Radley, held the post for more than 35 years.

Initially, the district churches funded the establishment of the Cemetery and for many years subsidised its operation until it became self-supporting. Initially the Cemetery finances were mostly managed by the Funeral Director until the Cemetery Trust was finalised at which point the Sanitarium Health Food Company office and later the College took over the accounting. Eventually the North New South Wales (NNSW) Conference became responsible for managing the Cemetery operation.

During the 1940s the Cemetery’s operations were formalised and a Constitution for an Avondale Cemetery Trust drafted and accepted by the then three Adventist churches in the district; College, Dora Creek, and Memorial. The constitution made provision for any future churches established within a 15 km radius to have a part and now several more churches have an interest in the operation of the Cemetery and provide members for its Board of Management. The purpose of the Trust as envisioned by GF Bohringer was not

To this day, the NNSW Conference authorises the only Funeral Director permitted to bury at the Avondale Cemetery.

In 1983 the local government authority (Lake Macquarie Shire Council) classified the Cemetery as a conservation area, noting that ‘The uniformity of this site distinguish it (sic) from other modern cemeteries. It provides a comprehensive documentation of the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Centre in Cooranbong, their headquarters in NSW and major settlement in Australia, from 1897 to the present.’ Elsewhere in the same conservation document it is noted, ‘…the cemetery is immaculately maintained. Apparently there is no religious symbolism which explains this treatment, only that of ‘caring & respect for our dead’ as one Seventh-day Adventist explained it.’

What we believe about death and the resurrection

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Bible teaches that all people are given the chance to choose eternal life by believing in Jesus.  ‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16)

When Jesus, the life giver, returns to this earth at His second advent, those who have chosen that promised life will be raised from from their graves of death and sleep, and shall live eternally with Him. ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am’ (John 14:1-3).

‘But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.  For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

The Hope of the Resurrection

‘And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever’ (I Thessalonians 4:13-17).

We provide all services with respect, compassion and integrity.  We are dedicated to providing consistency in everything we do while ensuring you and your loved ones have access to dignified and uplifting services and memorialisation.

Mark Windus

Cemetery Manager

Reach Us


20 Central Road
Cooranbong  NSW  2265


(02) 4944 3288

0411 797 854


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