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Friday, May 14, 2021

Lost ashes investigation triggers changes to Act

An investigation into lost ashes at Norwood Park Crematorium has resulted in a number of recommendations as well as proposed changes to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act.

Three families raised concerns about the ashes of deceased loved ones last year, children who passed away in the 1970s, which were lost when a memorial wall was moved to allow for the expansion of Norwood’s facilities in 1992.

As a result of the investigation, one family’s ashes were located and another family’s ashes were located and returned to them. Despite the investigation, the third family’s ashes were unable to be located.

The investigation found Norwood did not have any documented policies, procedures or standard operation procedures to formally document the ashes management process, nor a complaints process, and were using a database that had not been upgraded since 2011.

Regulator and Deputy Director-General of City Services, Jim Corrigan, said the investigation report outlines a number of recommendations pertaining to record keeping, system upgrades and the documentation of procedures at Norwood.

“Recommendations from the investigation focus on documenting processes and procedures and record keeping. The investigation recommends that Norwood Park check their records and close out any discrepancies in the records by contacting families,” he said.

“But particularly, where things are serious, and in this case … with these three families in particular, we’ve asked Norwood Park to formalise what they’ve done with the families, so they understand what has occurred.”

Mr Corrigan also said the Government would seek to make changes to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, which would include requiring operators to have documented policies and procedures, keep more information on the location of interred ashes and have processes to be followed if ashes are ever moved.

Member for Ginninderra Tara Cheyne MLA, who first brought the three families’ concerns to light, welcomed the recommendations and described the report as “devastating and damning”.

“It’s been a really mixed response for these families, and I think we need to remember that this has been a period of 40 years of heartbreak, and heartbreak that has I think been exacerbated by some of the actions – or perhaps inaction – that Norwood has taken,” she said.

Mr Corrigan said the investigation did not uncover any evidence of broader or systemic issues relating to ashes interred at Norwood. Norwood is a privately owned crematorium, and is said to have cooperated fully with the investigation. Mr Corrigan indicated he expects Norwood to comply with the recommendations outlined in the report.

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