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Burial and Cremation Amendment Bill 2018 (No 56)

[8.14 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I accept that the aim of this bill is to protect cemeteries and to allow people access to them.

I do not really know whether I have any of these churches within my electorate, but there is one I recall from when I was an alderman - St Peter's church at St Leonards. I am sure the member for Windermere has been there on a couple of occasions. I have been there on several occasions. This little church was first opened in 1847. A number of very old graves and headstones are in the cemetery there.

Mr Dean - Where was that?

Ms ARMITAGE - The little Anglican church on St Leonards Road, St Peter's church. It is very sad it is being sold. I think it is listed for sale. I recall on some occasions when we went out with the council just looking at the area, many of the headstones had fallen off or had broken off and were just sitting along the fence. Some were in a terrible state of disrepair and some were very old as well. Many local people and historians used to go and - I do not know how you say it - put the paper over the headstones and they do those -

Ms Rattray - It is called stencilling, isn't it?

Ms ARMITAGE - I do not know whether it is stencilling; they go over with lead -

Mr Finch - Rubbing.

Ms ARMITAGE - Yes, rubbing, and they get a copy of the very old headstones and details of who the people were. There were some very old headstones there.

Interestingly, when we look at some of the issues and people talk about upkeep, I always thought people have looked after their own graves. I certainly would not expect anyone else to look after the graves of any of my family members; you always look after your own family's gravesites. One of the things mentioned is that people do not visit graves that often.

You can understand that people do not visit the dead, but people do not visit the living very often either. If you go to some of the nursing homes, you find an awful lot of people there do not get visitors, so you can understand people do not have time to go to graves.

My father has been dead over 20 years and when I think of how many times I have been to his grave - I am of the opinion that you visit the living, not so much the dead. It is a personal view, but it is important we honour and respect our dead. I have been particularly to St Peter's church on many occasions and seen the old headstones and the graves there.

I note the member for Windermere's proposed amendment. At this stage I am not sure I will support it. I looked at it and thought of moving an amendment. I sent an email to the Attorney‑General to ask about the consequences of such an amendment. The response I received from Hon. Elise Archer was -

The Government arrived at that default closure period as a consequence of the public consultation on our initial draft bill (which had 100 years with no 50 year application to close process).

Given some members of the community wanted perpetuity (because that's what they always thought had been the position) the Government determined 100 years struck the right balance, but we have now allowed for an application to close a cemetery at 50 years with any conditions the Regulator may make.

Therefore, we've already changed our original position in the draft Bill as a result of the public and stakeholder consultation. It's a balance between the significant community concern on the period of closure and allowing cemetery managers to apply to close at 50 years.

I believe some of the media coverage I had that mentioned the issues, particularly with LGAT, was before the change to allow the regulator to make the closure at 50 years. I also understand that the figure provided by the Anglican Church - and the member for Windermere might have some information on this - was multiplied by 100 years. Normally, if an actuary were looking at perhaps a settlement of an amount of damages for a period, they would look at the money invested over that period and deduct the investment, or the money coming back through investment, against the multiplication of 100 years by the amount. I am not sure the amount they have come up with is accurate if they have simply multiplied that amount by 100 years without looking at the investment over that time as well.

Most areas have been covered by other members. I am pleased to see that even after that period, the cemetery will always be maintained and open to the public. That is an issue for many people. I know it is 50 or 100 years, but if you have someone buried there, even if you do not visit, it is nice to know they are still there and it is somewhere where you can go.

Leader, can you confirm - we have had so many briefings today - that no-one would be dug up? Does it simply mean the headstones are laid out and the records go to the government department?

Mrs Hiscutt - The records go to the archives.

Ms ARMITAGE - So the records will still be kept somewhere.

Mrs Hiscutt - They will be archived.

Ms ARMITAGE - It will be almost like a park. The bodies are still there, they are still interred and no-one is dug up.

Mrs Hiscutt - I think the member is talking about two different things. You are talking about the physical remains and the records.

Ms ARMITAGE - I am talking about both. The bodies remain. When the headstones are laid out after a certain period of time, the records then go to the archives.

Could you clarify that so that it is really clear? I agree with the principle of the bill. I will consider the amendments before us. I am not sure about the member for Windermere's amendment. Consultation had occurred and many in the community were quite comfortable with 100 years. I am concerned about the amount of money that has come to us from the Anglican Church. Is that correct or does it take into account the investment over that period and not just the multiplication of the 100-year term?

I support the principle of the bill and I look forward to other members' contributions. I will decide then on the amendments.

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