A broken and cracked grave at the Wonthaggi Cemetery. Volunteers want to repair them – but have limited money. mm022518

BUREAUCRATIC red tape is stopping Bass Coast cemetery volunteers from looking after and repairing headstones.
Some of them at the Wonthaggi and San Remo cemeteries have fallen over and require a bit of cement to fix them up, volunteers say.
But council, citing Department of Health policies, say volunteers aren’t allowed to touch them without approval from their families.
And despite efforts from volunteers to contact families, some just can’t be reached – stopping the community members from being able to repair headstones.
Wonthaggi Cemetery volunteer Noelene Lyons said the concrete is breaking away on some of the graves.
“You’ve got a beautiful headstone, it only needs two muscle men and some cement to put it back up,” she said at a public Cemetery Trust meeting last Wednesday.
“What’s the problem with that? We can’t contact the family. It’s our job to find the families but we find it just impossible sometimes.
“Some of them, all the brickwork has collapsed in – we don’t have any money and we’re the only ones left.”
But the Department of Health won’t hand out grants for the restoration of headstones, according to shire officers. And the council’s not allowed to use Cemetery Trust funds to repair the headstones.
It would instead be up to the community to raise the money, but it still requires approval from the deceased’s relatives – although how they can be contacted is anyone’s guess.
“These graves are going to disintegrate,” Noelene said.
Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield said there would be a “big cost” in repairing them, and it would also be a question of “where do you start, where do you finish?”
“The headstones belong to the family. We’re not actually permitted to touch them unless there is a danger,” said Cr Rothfield, who’s also a Phillip Island Cemetery volunteer. The mayor stressed she was only a messenger for the Department of Health’s policies.
Noelene also questioned the $145,000 expense bill for the Wonthaggi Cemetery. She called it “unacceptable” and queried what the money was being spent on.
According to the council, the full financials will be released later this year.
Cr Les Larke also quizzed shire officers on the extent of vegetation removal involved in the Master Plan for the Wonthaggi Cemetery.
Officers said it could include the pine trees in the centre of the cemetery, but they would undergo community consultation before deciding on the extent of the works.