The ACT Government has announced plans for a publicly operated crematorium at the Gungahlin Cemetery, which will also help meet the needs of the ACT’s multicultural communities.
ACT Minister for City Services, Chris Steel, said that during recent consultations, one in 10 who responded commented that their cultural and religious needs were not being met by current services operating in the ACT.
“A key finding from the community was that some religious communities in Canberra do not have their needs met when it comes to burial and cremation, particularly our Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. As an inclusive and welcoming city, this is not good enough,” the Minister said.
“We’re committed to ensuring that all Canberrans can access cemetery and crematorium services. We have a vibrant multicultural community and it’s important that people have access to the services they need here, rather than having to travel interstate.”
Member for Yerrabi, Deepak-Raj Gupta, said the proposed crematorium “will help to fulfil one of the significant requirements of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities, allowing family members to perform the last rites as per their religious beliefs”.
The ACT is the only State or Territory where its primary cemeteries are “interment only”. The ACT has one privately owned crematorium to serve a population of approximately 425,000, but with a current cremation rate of 75%, Mr Steel acknowledged “we need to expand the number of cremation services that are available”.
“The community told us that they wanted a publicly run crematorium in Canberra. The Government has listened and I will appoint the ACT (Public) Cemeteries Authority to build and operate a new public crematorium at Gungahlin Cemetery,” Minister Steel said.
Chair of the ACT Public Cemeteries Authority, Stephen Bartos, welcomed the development and said he believed “the ACT can clearly cope with having two crematoriums running side by side. There’s more than enough demand”.
He said the facility is about being able to provide “choice” to the community.
Mr Steel said they are expecting the new crematorium, which is expected to cost $2 million to build, to be developed over the next 12 months with the potential of services being operational by the end of 2020.
The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission will set prices at the public crematorium and competitive neutrality principles will be applied to the new public facilities.
Overall, Mr Steel said there is room in the market for three to four crematoriums, including potential for services at the Southern Memorial Park (SMP) cemetery to be located on the southside of Canberra.
In February of this year, the ACT Government flagged design work was due to start for the SMP this financial year. The site is expected to be designed to allow for a crematorium.