Many readers will no doubt have been saddened by recent letters critical of the attitude of BCSC personnel towards those who offered themselves as volunteers at the two local cemeteries which are controlled by Bass Coast Shire Council. I refer to the letters from the indefatigable Wonthaggi Cemetery contributor Noelene Lyons ‘History at an end,’ 12/1 and from the esteemed Jane Ross founder of and sole remaining Friends of San Remo Cemetery volunteer ‘Shire must learn from experience’ 26/1. Those readers who have accessed the BCSC Cemetery webpage may struggle to reconcile the experiences of many volunteers at both Wonthaggi and San Remo cemeteries with the BCSC statement claiming, “Community volunteers play a vital role in maintaining our cemeteries.” From my own experiences I similarly doubt the claimed BCSC appreciation of cemetery volunteers. My questioning of BCSC about the extent of appreciation – or rather lack of it – was met with the official written response “I reiterate the view that council recognises the need for volunteer groups and values our volunteers throughout the shire.” Well maybe “yes”, unless you are (or rather have been) a hard-working, hands-on cemetery volunteer who displays lots of initiative to resolve long-neglected and basic issues.
Wonthaggi Cemetery Trust and San Remo Cemetery Trust are in reality separate entities, each with its own ABN and distinct from BCSC per se. Each as a Class B cemetery is controlled (??) by its own trust and, as explained in the Wonthaggi Master Plan, page 9, ‘the trust is managed by Members . . . who are the councillors.’ I must take exception here to the word ‘managed.’ The offence taken by Noelene Lyons and the harsh criticism of Jane Ross is mainly directed at council officers. My perception is that Trust membership of councillors amounts largely to tokenism – with management being left to a designated council officer (of which there has been a succession of many) of varying degrees of competency, but all seeming free to wield enormous power, sometimes in a tactless insensitive, condescending manner, and displaying poor interpersonal skills yet all of whom invariably have accolades heaped upon them at Trust meetings.
It’s disheartening to those who volunteer to be treated as many feel they have been. One can live in hope that the actual trustees can step up, accept their trust responsibilities and arrest this ‘tail wagging the dog’ situation. Both cemeteries certainly need their volunteer groups. It is so sad that the Friends of San Remo Cemetery now numbers but one. Yes, I contributed to that decline. I accept full responsibility for my demise as a cemetery volunteer, but to those who see the demise (at no cost), of that huge stockpile of spoil (in the master plan referred to as ‘an eyesore,’ may be more appreciative. My hope is that common sense may come to prevail so that, in my area, Friends of San Remo Cemetery will show a revival. Friends groups are so important to both cemeteries.
Russell Riseley, Newhaven