Cemetery trust backflips, apologises after removing mementos from graves

Cemetery trust backflips, apologises after removing mementos from graves

Remembrance Park, which manages Pine Lodge and 10 other cemeteries in north Victoria, released a statement Tuesday, January 31, more than a week after items were removed from Pine Lodge’s graves, sparking an outcry .

Relatives who buried family members in the cemetery last week said they were devastated because irreplaceable mementos were removed and thrown away without warning.

The trust last week defended its measures in line with its “longstanding ornamentation policy”, but this week it said it would consult more closely with families before making any changes to the gravesites.

Remembrance Park said it was “aware that its application of the adornment policy has caused uncertainty and concern among many families with loved ones buried in our cemeteries.”

“While our actions to date have been motivated by compliance with health and safety legislation, we recognize that we should have provided better support to families and communicated more widely before acting as we have,” the trust said.

“Our guidelines on monuments on graves and memorials are designed to protect the health and safety of staff and visitors to our cemeteries, help protect the environment and support the diverse cultural and religious needs of the many people in Victorian communities.

“We also have a responsibility to families who want to decorate the graves of their loved ones, and we need to do a better job of explaining to families what is and isn’t allowed at grave sites.”

Love and Care: Mitchell Hilton’s grave, which is in Pine Lodge Cemetery before Remembrance Park swept through and removed flowers and keepsakes from the graves.

The Trust said senior officials had met with some families to help change decorations on graves and said they would support “any person or family who wishes to work with us to navigate the rules and ensure that they are compliant”.

“We look forward to working with all of the Remembrance Park families and thank everyone for their input, support and patience as we restore balance to ensure the rules on flowers and ornaments that allow visitors to bring items to Placing places, doing our duty caring and families remembering their loved ones.”

Member of State for Shepparton Kim O’Keeffe joined the chorus criticizing the Trust for causing “pain and distress” to grieving families and urging Victorian Health Secretary Mary-Anne Thomas to act.

Member of State for North Victoria Wendy Lovell this week called for the trustee to be fired.

Ms O’Keeffe said it was important that cemetery officials approach the situation with compassion, rather than removing items without notice.

“I’m devastated, this has caused so much heartache and pain to a lot of people,” Ms. O’Keeffe said.

Ms O’Keeffe said she had been contacted by affected individuals and families, including Kath Hilton, whose son Mitchell died in May 2011 at the age of 16.

“Kath has for 11 years abided by the rules on what should appear on headstones at her son’s grave and felt that what she had done was acceptable,” said Ms O’Keeffe.

“Kath was away over Christmas to find that Mitchell’s headstone at Pine Lodge had been left empty without warning or correspondence from management.

“Cemeteries management should understand that families are grieving and such action would cause significant pain and distress.”

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