CEMETERIES AND CREMATORIA AMENDMENT BILL 2014
Written on the 14 October 2014Second reading
Debate resumed from 16 September.
Motion of Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health).
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I will be speaking only quite briefly on the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2014, as it is an extremely straightforward bill and in consideration of the number of bills we have to get through in this sitting week. The bill amends the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003. Its clauses are extremely straightforward, as I said, and very easy to understand. The Greens will therefore support this bill.
Ms LEWIS (Northern Victoria) -- The opposition will not be opposing this bill, so I speak in support of the amendments made by the bill and the comfort the bill will certainly provide to families of veterans who have passed away.The Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2014 makes small but significant changes to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003. The purpose of the principal act is to provide for the management and operation of cemeteries and crematoria, and it establishes the terms and conditions of internment of bodily remains and cremated remains. Under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 there is a right of perpetual internment for interred bodily remains, but the rights relating to the internment of cremated human remains may be perpetual or for a period of 25 years from the date it is granted. The purpose of this bill is to amend the rights of internment for cremated human remains in special circumstances by providing cemetery trusts with new powers to manage the cremated human remains of deceased veterans and their family members.
This bill allows for the conversion of a 25-year internment right into a perpetual internment right where the cremated human remains have been identified as those of a veteran. The bill also allows for the reinterment of cremated human remains of deceased identified veterans and their family members in specified circumstances.
Under section 85 of the principal act at least 12 months before the expiry of a right of internment for interring cremated human remains for 25 years, the cemetery trust responsible for the cemetery where the right applies must take reasonable steps to notify the holder of the right that the internment will expire at the end of 25 years. This notification must advise the holder of the right of internment that a request may be made to extend the right for a further 25 years or to convert the right of internment to a perpetual internment right.
The process of contacting families to determine their wishes is often complicated by poorly maintained, old or inaccurate cemetery records. Under the amendments, if the cemetery trust has given notification under section 85 and no action has been taken by the holder of the right of internment and the interred cremated remains are those of an identified veteran, the cemetery trust may leave those interred cremated human remains undisturbed in perpetuity and convert the right of internment to a perpetual internment right or may remove the cremated human remains from their current place of internment and reinter them at another location within the cemetery grounds. Any memorial may also be removed and re-established or a new memorial may be established.
The amendments also provide for the cemetery trust to remove from their current place of internment any cremated human remains that were interred in the same place of internment as the cremated human remains of the deceased identified veteran or any cremated human remains of a family member of the deceased identified veteran that were interred in a place of internment in the vicinity of the place of internment of the cremated human remains of the deceased identified veteran. These cremated human remains may be reinterred at the location of the cremated remains of the identified deceased veteran or at another location within the cemetery grounds that is in the vicinity of the location where the cremated human remains of the deceased identified veteran are interred. In plain language this means that where a veteran's cremated remains are interred together with or in the vicinity of the remains of members of their family, the cemetery trust may also reinter the remains of the veteran's family members at a location which is suitable for perpetual internment.Any memorials at the current place of internment of the cremated remains of a family member may also be moved and re-established or a new, equivalent memorial may be established.
When a cemetery trust reinters cremated human remains under the provisions of these amendments, the right of internment that applies to the new place of internment is perpetual. If a cemetery trust converts a right of internment to perpetual internment under these amendments, then the right of internment will be held by the cemetery trust and the cemetery trust will be responsible for the maintenance of that place of internment and any memorial established there.To enable the cemetery trust to maintain places of internment of identified deceased veterans, new section 110A is inserted into the principal act to enable the cemetery trust to use trust funds or other funds for the purposes of maintenance, repair or restoration of any memorial or for the establishment of a memorial to any deceased identified veterans.
This new section 110A applies to the cremated remains of any persons identified as veterans under the Veterans Act 2005.Under the provisions of the principal act a significant number of cremated remains of returned service personnel that are interred in Victorian public cemeteries will be subject to disinterment and disposal. This bill provides that cemetery trusts will be given new powers to manage cremated human remains of deceased veterans and their family members. These changes represent a significant change in the way our community recognises, honours and manages the interment of the cremated remains of deceased veterans and their family members. Providing for the perpetual interment of the cremated remains of identified veterans and their family members will impose a very small cost on our community compared to the enormous contributions made to the community by those veterans and their family members. This is the appropriate and respectful thing to do for veterans and their families, and I understand that veterans groups are supportive of these changes.It is fitting that this amendment comes to the Parliament this year, the centenary of the commencement of World War I, during which so many young Australians lost their lives and were buried in the massive war graves of Turkey, Belgium and France. Now all veterans who returned to Australia will have perpetual interment whether they are interred bodily or as cremated remains. Providing perpetual interment for the cremated remains of veterans and their family members will also add a new dimension to our cemeteries, provide acknowledgement of the veterans' service to our country and provide information to future generations of local and family historians. It is a small way for us to acknowledge the hardship experienced by our veterans and to say thank you to the veterans of all wars in which Australia has been involved.
As time passes since World War I and other wars and conflicts in which Australia has lost servicemen and women, making contact with family members to determine their wishes will be increasingly difficult.
This bill gives the community assurance that the remains of veterans and their families will be treated with respect and that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. I commend the bill to the house.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise and speak on the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2014. In doing so I acknowledge members of the opposition and Ms Hartland from the Greens for their support of this bill.
As has been said, this year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, and in more recent years many Australians have actively served in our armed forces in conflicts and peacekeeping missions right across the world. Remembrance Day is only a few weeks away, so this bill is timely inasmuch as it recognises and will preserve the remains of those war veterans who have gone before us.I have already mentioned the centenary of Anzac, and I also congratulate those people who have been involved in the many projects that are being undertaken for the Anzac commemoration. I also acknowledge the people from various Victorian schools who have been chosen to attend the Gallipoli commemoration next year and the many people who have connected with and rediscovered their family members' contributions in the Great War through tracing their family histories. I commend members of the Victorian Anzac Centenary Committee for the work they have done in commemorating the Anzac centenary.
This relatively simple bill relates only to war veterans and will protect their ashes forever. There are literally hundreds of cemeteries right across the state that are well tended and cared for on a regular basis, and they form an important part of our communities. They often reflect the significant history of individuals' lives and provide comfort to family members by recognising the loved ones who have gone before them.Currently deceased people can be buried effectively in perpetuity; however, ashes which are held by cemetery trusts can be discarded after 25 years. As it stands, the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 accords no legal power to cemetery trusts to extend the tenure of expired ashes without their receiving instructions from relevantPage 36
family members and the payment of an associated fee. Therefore, if a deceased family member of a war veteran cannot be contacted or is unwilling to renew the tenure of expired ashes, then a cemetery trust may disinter and scatter the ashes elsewhere or even discard them. Despite many cemetery trusts saying this practice does not occur, it could, therefore the ashes of those war veterans could be lost forever.
The bill amends the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 to provide for the conversion of a right of interment of cremated remains of deceased identified veterans for 25 years to a perpetual right of interment and to provide for the reinterment of cremated human remains of deceased identified veterans and their family members in specified circumstances.
As I said, the bill will convert the limited tenure cremated remains of war veterans, and limited tenure cremated remains of family members interred with or close to a war veteran, to permanent tenure. That means that a war veteran could be moved to be with a family member in the immediate location.
The bill enables the re-establishment or removal of a memorial to a war veteran, and it also provides for the removal of cremated remains to a place of remembrance.As I said, many cemeteries across our state have well-tended and well-looked-after places of remembrance. I note that Springvale has a dedicated service each year in the Springvale War Cemetery within the Springvale Botanical Cemetery. Each year at this beautiful place of remembrance people can commemorate our war veterans.
As other members have said, this bill is about honouring those who have gone before us. In preparing this bill advice was sought from the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Cemeteries and Crematoria. During the committee's deliberations a very notable and well known and widely respected Victorian, Major General David McLachlan, AO, was consulted. As members will know, Major General David McLachlan, the president of the Victorian branch of the Returned and Services League, was consulted on the proposed changes to the act, and I understand that he agreed with the changes.I congratulate the minister for taking action this year to ensure that war veterans' ashes can be maintained and preserved, and that the Victorian community can rightfully respect and commemorate those men and women who have served over so many years to protect what is dear to us all -- namely, our democracy, the freedoms we enjoy each day and, importantly, our way of life. I commend the bill to the house.Motion agreed to.
Read second time.Ordered to be read third time later this day.