Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust: Overturn the decision to change the design of the historic markers

This petition made change with 406 supporters!

The Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc. ("the Friends") is a not-for-profit community group formed in May 2007 to promote the conservation and appreciation of the Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries as places of local, state and national importance.  Their motto is research, restore, remember.  

The Friends are passionate about their initiative to mark the graves of those buried at the Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery and the Cheltenham Memorial Park with historic markers to enlighten the visitor.  Yet after being allowed to commission ten (10) such markers, the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust ("SMCT") insist that the Friends must change the design to include the cemetery's logo and the name of the cemetery in abbreviated form ("CMP" or "CPC").

On two occasions SMCT failed to engage the Friends to work on a suitable design, firstly when the Friends put forward the idea in April-May 2011 and secondly after the CEO intervened in July 2011 when the Friends protested the decision made by Sales and Marketing on the removal of the website ("") and word "funded" from the design.

The decision that the Friends must change the design is neither fair, reasonable or justified.  The role of SMCT is to ensure the provisions of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 and Cemeteries and Crematoria Regulations 2005 are followed.  The historic markers meet all regulations and are approved by the right-of-burial holder or family descendant who are legally required to sign the application forms before SMCT can issue a permit to allow the marker to be affixed on the grave.  Before the markers are ordered by the Friends, the draft wording is forwarded to the Site Manager of the Cheltenham cemeteries for his approval.  Unfortunately, the relevant Act gives SMCT all and absolute power to reject any application for any reason. 

The Friends have put forward an alternative design that could be used to mark the history of the cemeteries at key locations thereby maintaining the existing design for graves while satisfying SMCT's desire for a marketing benefit. 

But still, SMCT insist that the Friends must change the design.  But it's not as easy as that.  The marker measures 220mm by 200mm and can only fit approximately 115 words.  To include the changes will mean reducing the amount of words or increasing the size of the marker, an additional cost which the Friends will have to cover.  SMCT have only offered to pay the cost to have the marker re-designed (there is no cost).  The names of both cemeteries have changed over the years and will probably change again - will anyone know what "CMP" and "CPC" stand for?  An initiative of this nature is not something you change at whim, mid-point.  Its success depends on all the markers being of uniform design and style - think of the markers on the notable buildings in Melbourne's Central Business District.  Will the visitor recognise the logo in the years to come when, inevitably as organisations do, the logo has been changed?  And what about the right-of-burial owner or family descendant who may not want the logo etc included on the marker? SMCT have shown little interest in addressing these concerns.

Since 19 May 2012, when the Friends rejected SMCT's proposal to accept $1,500 per annum to change the design, the committee and volunteers have been under unrelenting pressure to yield.  The toll it is taking on their health and happiness is at odds with the community's expectation of SMCT. 

The Friends seek your support to have the decision overturned by signing this petition and allow them to continue their work for the benefit of the community. Alternatively, send a message to SMCT via Twitter - @SMCT_ORG_AU

For more information about the Friends, visit their website or follow them on Facebook


ADDENDUM: Regardless of the differences in opinion with SMCT over the finer points of our petition or how we have come to this stage, the simple fact is that our committee and volunteers are under pressure to recognise SMCT on our historic markers.  It is this pressure that is affecting our health and happiness.  We are still no wiser but judging by this article in SMCT’s Cemetery Commentary (Aug 2012) where there is no mention of the role of the Friends over 14 months to facilitate the restoration of the Copeland grave, if we yield to the pressure, chances are that our role in commissioning the historic markers will likewise be claimed as an SMCT initiative.  The markers should be about the person, not used as a tool to gain recognition of the support we receive from SMCT.

Read our open letter addressed to the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust on our website.

Letter from Mr Jonathan Tribe, Esq CEO of SMCT dated 11 Sep 2012

Reply from FOCRC dated 12 Sep 2012

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