You are here
Burial And Cremation Amendment Bill 2018 - Second Reading
Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens
will be supporting the bill. We are having this debate today as a result
of a momentous decision made by the Anglican Church in the context of the
National Redress Scheme to provide a measure of compensation and justice
to survivors of past sexual abuse.
Since this issue arose in the public debate and there has been, right
across Tasmania, concern in rural and regional communities about what this
might mean for places that most of us regard as sacred sites. It is not
like other public lands or privately-owned lands, or even church-owned
lands. Cemeteries are special places and they are sacred ground.
Where I grew up on Stradbroke Island, there is a cemetery, the Dunwich
Cemetery, and it is so much more than a final resting place. It is an
historic site because it contains the graves of the typhus victims. When
people were sent to Australia or emigrated in the 1800s, there was a
typhus outbreak and people were kept in ships off the Queensland coastline
at a place called Peel Island. Peel Island was near Stradbroke Island and
near the Dunwich Cemetery. As a child I remember walking through the
Dunwich Cemetery. It was one of those epiphany moments that we have as a
child when you are reminded or you learn how fragile life. Dunwich
Cemetery has whole families laid out. Two-week-old babies, three
generations of a family who had emigrated to Australia and did not make it
past the quarantine ship.
Similarly, over the winter break, I had the good fortune to go to Greece.
In Greece burial sites are extremely important to generations of families.
They are woven into each family's story. They are places that the younger
generations will visit. They will know where grandmother's grave is on
the island of Paxos, for example. That grave becomes central to their
understanding of who they are, where they came from. Their sense of
history in Greece is often tied to their family's history. Their family's
history is defined in part by where their ancestors' remains are laid.
Across cultures burial grounds are sacred sites -
Ms Archer - Samoa, they have them in their front yards.
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, or backyards. By interjection, Attorney-General, how
different it is in Greece. In western society, where we grew up, a
cemetery is often a reasonably sized parcel of land but in Greece great
grandmother can be buried in the backyard under the water tank.
I thank the departmental officers and members of the minister's staff who
provided us with a briefing the other day on the changed amendments bill.
I recognise there were some substantive changes, in fact numerous new
clauses inserted in the legislation to provide us with the legislation we
are debating today.
This amendment bill establishes a regulator role for cemeteries who will
continue to be the director for local government; it allows the regulator
to impose conditions on the alternative use or sale of a cemetery and the
protection of war veterans' graves. It is in that context that I
acknowledge the foreshadowed amendment put forward by the member for Lyons,
Ms Butler, which would provide further protection for those incredibly
important resting places.
This amendment bill increases the length of time from the last burial
before a cemetery can be closed from the current 30 years to 50 years and
requires cemetery managers to obtain approval from the regulator to close
the cemetery. It imposes a default time period of a century, but with the
power to reduce on a case-by-case basis since the last interment before
the cemetery manager can remove monuments, apply to lay the cemetery out
as a park or garden, or apply to exhume and reverently reinter human
This amendment bill should provide a measure of reassurance to communities
that should a resting place, a cemetery, be sold or change hands or
transferred, there is a continuity through the establishment of a body
corporate to have responsibility for that resting place, and that is a
significant improvement of the legislation in this context of the Anglican
I note what Mr O'Byrne said about the different definitions of 'senior
next of kin'. We have here the Regulations for the Burial and Cremations
Act. These were put out in 2015 and have a definition of 'senior next of
kin' which is longer and somewhat different from the definition in the
amendment bill we are debating today. Similarly, there is no definition
in the amendment bill of the term 'spouse'. The Attorney-General and I
and officers have talked about this and have foreshadowed an amendment
that would insert a clause 4 in paragraph (g) that omits (3b) and inserts
Spouse includes the other party to a significant relationship within the
meaning of the Relationships Act.
In my conversation with the Attorney-General we agreed that she could
clarify that in the second reading debate. 'Spouse' in the regulations
includes 'the other party to a significant relationship within the meaning
of the Relationships Act 2003', but these regulations provide definitions
for the purposes of these regulations. It does not say it in the
principal act but in these regulations 'spouse' is defined thus. If the
Attorney-General could provide some clarity about whether she believes it
is necessary, perhaps to be more specific about that and include a
definition of 'spouse', that would be helpful.
I would like to ask the Attorney-General if there has been further
consultation with the Anglican Church and Bishop Condie over this final
iteration of the amendment bill. Clearly there has been a completely
understandable and justifiable amount of pressure put on the bishop and
the church over the announcement that they would be selling church
properties. I have no doubt the bishop particularly felt very stressed as
a result of the public reception to the Anglican Church's announcement and
the deep fear within regional communities particularly about what this
would mean for their sacred ground. I acknowledge that the Anglican
Church has made the right decision in relation to being a party to the
National Redress Scheme and accepting its responsibility for the role the
church played in the suffering of children, the lifelong trauma, the loss
of life of people who did not live the full life they might otherwise have
lived had they not been abused as children at the hands of institutions,
including the Anglican Church.
We were pleased to have the briefing with departmental officers and the
minister's office and feel that if there are issues with these provisions
we are debating today they can be dealt with through the review process,
which is not yet finalised. This bill has a measure of urgency about it
because of the process of national redress and the decision the Anglican
Church has made. Beyond that, these amendments strengthen the Burial and
Cremation Act and it is on that basis that we will be supporting this
It is a good amendment bill. There were questions put by Mr O'Byrne on
behalf of some stakeholders and it will be interesting to hear the
Attorney-General's response to those questions, and I commend the Attorney-
General on this legislation and indicate we strongly support it.