Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2021

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (11:42): I rise to speak on the Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2021, and I would just like to echo the thoughts and sentiments of Ms Shing in relation to the lapel pins and ribbons et cetera. It is good to have something that is a tangible and an actionable item before us that actually addresses the key issues at hand. Ms Crozier spoke about the documentary last night which I watched myself—the See What You Made Me Do documentary on SBS. I urge anyone who has not seen it to have a look at it. It is on again next week; it is a three-part series. It just shows you how remarkable and frightening at the same time family violence and also coercive control can be. If you are not quite sure what coercive control is, then just take a look at that documentary and you will soon find out. I would like to pay my respects to Karen Williams’s family and friends who have gone through unimaginable grief. What happened to Karen should happen to no-one, especially not by the ones that they love. This bill provides another opportunity to cast a light on family violence, a scourge in our society. Here we are, five years after the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s recommendations were handed down, and we have not put a dent in the awful family violence figures despite shovelling millions into initiatives, so something is just not right. I would also like to congratulate the work of the Office of Public Prosecutions for the appeal on the lenient sentence of Borce Ristevski. The OPP, like the Victorian public, thought nine years was not enough for the heinous crime and deception by Ristevski. On appeal even Chief Justice Ferguson said Ristevski had engaged in ‘an elaborate course of deception’, and that is an understatement. It is disappointing that there were plea deals done to downgrade Ristevski’s sentence from murder to manslaughter and that this conviction will never reflect the calculated callousness of that man—the crocodile tears, the misinformation, the blatant lying to authorities, the deception to devastated family members and the attempted destruction of Karen’s character by her perpetrator—but at least he is away for longer than the original nine years. This bill goes to the heart of an issue we do not often talk about with regard to family violence and that is the after-death care: the care of victims and their loved ones after their death. How dare Ristevski describe Karen, in the inscription on her headstone, as a devoted wife and how dare he have that power. He should also never have had the opportunity to rest next to her. I commend the retrospectivity of this bill to 2005, where those who have been convicted after this time will at least be at the behest of the new legislation. Whilst I query exactly how this date came to be, I think being retrospective is a very good thing. I would like to point out that there has been a great delay in bringing this bill to the house, and whilst I am not employed within the machinery of the health department and I appreciate that they have been a little bit busy with COVID-related matters, a delay of almost five years from the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s recommendation is a long time for this debate to occur. I would like to acknowledge that we are always going to have problems with family members and granting final wishes for their loved ones, and this becomes more complex in broken families, situations where wills do not exist and where there is a criminal matter involved in the death of a person. But one thing remains inarguable: if you kill your partner or family member, you should have no rights or any say in their after-death care. Not to take away from the seriousness or sensitivity of this topic, but this bill does lend itself to a rare opportunity to discuss the current problem that we have in Victoria about the space for plots in public cemeteries. The research tells us that the Victorian government need to have a plan for cemeteries, including acquiring more land, or we will literally have nowhere to go once we depart this mortal coil. There are a number of proposals being put forward about the rights of interment, and these include rights being handed down to cemetery trusts after 25 years unless there is objection and payment by rights of interment holders, veterans excepted. This is in contrast to the perpetuity of rights of interment that currently occurs for burials in Victoria. This bill also confirms that you can opt for a 25-year limited tenure for cremation, and we should have the same for burials as well. I should note that this happens all across Europe, where they do not have room to keep gravesites perpetually. When the 25 years are up and the family choose not to renew the site, the trust removes the headstone and reuses the land. Asia is leading the charge on this, though. Hong Kong actually has hill slopes that they use for cemeteries to save space. Something that is popping up again, though, and I think would be more palatable for Victorians, is a vertical burial. In my electorate, near Camperdown upright burials have been operating since 2010. They are innovative eco-burial sites where you are laid to rest in an eco-bag in the ground looking up at Mount Elephant. This option is also more affordable than a traditional burial with a casket, headstone and other expenses. We are seeing more cremations, but there are limitations to these, particularly for ethnic and religious beliefs. Whilst cremation can have a limited tenure for rights of interment, burials must be perpetual, and the problem is that cemetery trusts are required by legislation to hold enough equity to look after graves in perpetuity, so it is not in their interest to spend their money on new land. This is the government’s job. We may see this being a problem in the future, and this is something that should be noted. The government of Victoria should look at Adelaide, who are said to have the gold standard, according to Dr Hannah Gould, for laws around renewable tenures. I would encourage the government to act swiftly on this. Back to the most important part of the bill, and I am not going to spend too much time on this one. It is a great bill and I commend the government for bringing it to the Parliament, even if it is a number of years after the fact. Karen’s death should not be in vain. Family violence has never been more on the radar of lawmakers as it is now. Despite this, more work needs to be done. I hope that this bill is just one very small portion of much wider reform.


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