Department of Health

Cemeteries and crematoria complaints

Key messages

  • If you are concerned about a decision made by a cemetery trust, you should contact the trust to discuss the matter and seek a resolution.
  • If you cannot resolve a dispute with a cemetery trust, there are a number of other options for you to try.
  • Complaints about funeral directors should be directed to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Making a complaint about a cemetery trust

Cemetery trusts are responsible for the cemeteries they govern. If you have concerns about a particular cemetery, you should contact the relevant cemetery trust responsible for that cemetery. Contact details for Victorian cemetery trusts can be accessed using the Cemetery search.

When trusts receive complaints about their policies, procedures, products or services it is the trust’s responsibility to investigate the complaint and, where required, take the necessary action to resolve the complaint.

Any concerns with the decisions of a cemetery trust should be discussed between the complainant and representatives of the trust, and an attempt should be made to resolve the matter. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the trust should provide the complainant with a written response to their concerns.

No trust may disregard a complaint and consider it to be trivial or unnecessary to review.

Dispute settlement

It is recommended that where an issue cannot be resolved directly between the trust and the complainant, attempts are made to resolve the issue through mediation or another form of conflict resolution.

This may prevent the issue from becoming a legal matter or being escalated through a formal appeals process.

The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria is a free and confidential dispute resolution service funded by the Victorian Government. The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria has offices throughout Victoria.

Formal appeal procedures

Currently, the avenues of formal appeal against a decision made by a cemetery trust are:

  • through a review of the decision by the Victorian Ombudsman
  • by an appeal to the Supreme Court for judicial review.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

In addition to the formal appeal avenues listed above, under s.179 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, there is a specific appeals process for a holder of a right of interment to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for review of a decision of a cemetery trust to:

  • refuse to grant an approval to establish or alter a memorial or a place of interment in the cemetery
  • grant an approval to establish or alter a memorial or a place of interment in the cemetery, subject to terms and conditions.

Referring a complaint about a cemetery trust to the department

Cemetery trusts are independent statutory bodies, and there are limited circumstances in which the department can review the conduct of a cemetery trust.

Fraud or serious mismanagement

The department can investigate significant matters relating to cemetery trust governance and financial affairs. These may include:

  • fraud, such as misappropriation of trust funds
  • poor management practices
  • poor record-keeping practices
  • conflicts of interest.

In the case of suspected fraud, a person should report their concerns immediately to the chairperson of the relevant cemetery trust.

The chairperson must act on the concern and decide whether to investigate it further internally or report the suspected fraud to the police and the department.

What if I am not satisfied with a cemetery trust’s response to my complaint?

If a cemetery trust has made a decision that a person considers is not consistent with the trust’s powers under the Cemeteries Act, the department can, if it agrees with that view, ask the cemetery trust to review the decision.

Online complaint form

If you would like to refer a complaint to the department you can lodge a formal complaint online. Alternatively, please email enquiries to cemeteries@health.vic.gov.au

Complaints about funeral directors

The department does not deal with complaints relating to funeral directors. For issues concerning funeral directors, please contact Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Complaints management advice for cemetery trusts

Cemetery trusts are responsible for managing complaints about their own services and activities. The department has developed a fact sheet, Managing complaints – a guide for cemetery trusts, to help cemetery trusts manage complaints from initial contact right through to resolution.

Trusts are encouraged to contact the department for advice if they are unsure about the best way to manage a specific complaint.

Restricting access to a cemetery

Occasionally when an issue cannot be resolved, a legal dispute may arise between a person using the cemetery – such as a member of the public, stonemason or funeral director – and the cemetery trust. When this occurs, a cemetery trust cannot simply ban the person involved in the dispute from the cemetery.

If a cemetery trust believes it has sufficient grounds to ban a person from the cemetery, it should seek independent legal advice before taking any action.

Any restriction of a person’s access to the cemetery must be in writing. It must cite the reason for the ban, the duration of the ban and the legal power the trust is relying on to apply the ban. The trust should advise the department before introducing any ban.

Conflict between trust members

Conflict among trust members can occur and may be a normal part of trust dynamics.

However, where conflict does occur, the chairperson must ensure that trust members respect other members’ points of view and that all members conduct themselves in a fair and professional manner. This often requires:

  • listening to the views of other trust members
  • taking into consideration all viewpoints before coming to a decision
  • treating fellow trust members with courtesy and respect once decisions have been made.

A cemetery trust does not have the power to remove any trust member.

Where trust members have concerns about the function of the trust, they should meet with the chairperson and discuss their concerns. These concerns should be clearly documented and, where possible, supported by evidence.

Alternatively, the trust member may raise these issues with the trust more generally.

To do this, the trust member must request that their concern be included on the next trust meeting agenda for discussion. If the matter is urgent, two trust members may ask the chairperson to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.

Reviewed 17 May 2022

Health.vic

Contact details

Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm

Cemetery Sector Governance Support GPO Box 4057, Melbourne , VIC 3001

Was this page helpful?