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A review of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 is underway to identify regulatory changes that will ensure management of cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT is contemporary, sustainable, flexible, and meets the needs of all Canberrans.

The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 sets out the legislative framework for burials and cremations in the ACT. An inquiry into the management of ACT cemeteries in 2017 recommended, among other things, that the Act be reviewed and that the ACT Government continue to monitor community preferences.

Have your say on burial and cremation services by:

Please read the information paper before having your say.

We are looking at:

How do we provide a wide range of burial, cremation and similar services that will meet the current and future needs and preferences of the ACT community in a sustainable way?

We want to know if the current burial and cremation services in the ACT meet the needs of all religious and culturally diverse backgrounds and if they are interested in alternative burial and cremation practices.

The review will also look at the sustainability of cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT and the option of renewable tenure. The subject of renewable tenure is likely to be uncomfortable for some people, but it’s important to have a serious conversation about the ongoing sustainability of our cemeteries. Renewable tenure is not a new concept with other jurisdictions in Australia – New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia – and around the world implementing the model.

It is important to note that if any renewable tenure scheme is introduced in the ACT in perpetuity (forever) interment rights would still be an option and priority would be given to ensuring remains are handled and stored with care and dignity.

We know there’s increasing preference for cremations over burials and there is increased interest in alternative and more environmentally friendly options, such as natural burials. There are also a number of new and emerging technologies which are likely to become more widely available in the near future.

We will use your views to:

Your views will help identify what regulatory changes are needed to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003.

Your feedback will also help us create a contemporary, sustainable and flexible model to ensure a diverse range of burial, cremation and similar services, meeting the needs of all Canberrans now and into the future.

Renewable tenure

What is renewable tenure?

Renewable tenure refers to the process of purchasing rights for use of a burial site (or other interment site) for a specified period of time only, rather than forever, creating the opportunity to provide ongoing cemetery capacity.

Renewable tenure of burial sites is not a new concept and is being adopted widely, including in NSW, WA and SA, where the tenure periods for burial sites start at 25 years and range up to 99 years.

We understand that this is a sensitive topic and that is why we want to have a serious conversation with the community about the sustainability of our cemeteries.

What we are looking at

A key element of the review into the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 is to understand what the community think about renewable tenure of burial sites.

It’s important to note that this review is not proposing to reuse existing burial sites or to remove in perpetuity options. We do however need to have a serious conversation about the sustainability of our current practices and offering limited tenure burial sites in the ACT. In Australia the tenure periods for burial sites typically start at 25 years and range up to 99 years.

If renewable tenure were to be allowed in the ACT strict regulations could be put on the cemetery operator for example:

  • A requirement to extend the tenure period (up to a set period or in perpetuity) on application of the descendants or family of the deceased
  • A requirement to contact the descendants or family of the deceased at the end of the tenure period, including a requirement to provide information about options to extend the tenure period
  • A requirement to make a significant effort to contact the descendants or family of the deceased when the tenure period has lapsed and the site is intended to be reused
  • A wait period between the end of a tenure period and the start of the process to reuse a site (that is, before beginning the process of attempting to contact the descendants or family)
  • A requirement to store the remains of the deceased in an ossuary* or similar if the grave is reused.

Regardless of the regulations imposed, if reusing a site, Cemetery operators would be required to handle the remains of the deceased with respect and dignity and make information about the remains available to the family and the public for genealogical purposes.

It is not proposed to remove ‘in perpetuity’ as a tenure option.

As the community has an increasing preference for cremations over burials, it may also be necessary to consider renewable tenure for interment of cremated ashes. In other jurisdictions the tenure period for interment of ashes is typically 99 years.

*An ossuary is a container or room in which the remains of deceased people are placed.

What about existing burial sites?

The Government is not considering making changes to the tenure of existing burial sites.

What if I don't want a renewable tenure site?

The Government is not considering removing in perpetuity (forever) as an option for burial sites.