- Governance encompasses the processes by which organisations such as cemetery trusts are managed, controlled and held to account.
- A manual for Class B cemetery trusts is provided by the department to help cemetery trusts understand their duties and obligations.
- Good governance of a cemetery trust strengthens community confidence in the trust.
Manual for Victorian Class B cemetery trusts
The Manual for Victorian Class B cemetery trusts is provided by the department to help cemetery trusts understand and meet their duties and legislative obligations.
The information provided in the manual is intended for general use only. It is not intended to constitute formal advice or be a definitive guide to the law and operations of a cemetery trust.
Roles and responsibilities
Cemetery trust members represent the local communities in which the trust and its cemeteries are located. Trust members have a range of skills, experiences and perspectives.
The responsibilities of a cemetery trust member can be likened to those of a company director. Cemetery trust members have legal obligations and duties under:
- common law
- Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003
- Public Administration Act 2004
- other relevant state and federal legislation.
There is an expectation that cemetery trust members will act in good faith, fairly and impartially, with honesty and integrity, and in the best interests of the trust and their community.
The Sample Class B cemetery trust member position description provides more information about the role.
Under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act, the members of a Class B cemetery trust must appoint one of the current members to be the trust’s chairperson.
It is up to the trust to determine the length of a chairperson’s appointment. For example, some trusts like to rotate this role on an annual basis, whereas others appoint their chairperson for five years to tie in with their term of appointment as a trust member.
The role of the chairperson is to lead and assist trust members in understanding their role, and their responsibilities and accountabilities. Chairpersons are also responsible for ensuring that all trust members take part in the governance of the trust.
To achieve this, chairpersons need to facilitate discussions at trust meetings by ensuring that everybody has a say, managing meetings appropriately and ensuring that decisions are properly understood and well recorded.
Responsibilities of the chairperson will vary depending on the size and operations of the cemetery trust. The Sample Class B cemetery trust chairperson position description provides more information about the role.
Although there is no reference in the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act to the position of secretary, the cemetery trust may appoint a person to attend to routine business matters and perform powers and duties delegated by the trust.
Some trusts use a different title for this position, for example manager or administration officer. Depending on the size and operations of the trust, the secretary position may be voluntary or paid.
It is best practice for secretaries to be given a position description that lists the responsibilities of the job. The department has developed a Sample Class B cemetery trust secretary position description that may be adapted to meet the trust’s needs.
If a secretary is paid by the trust, the payment should be commensurate with the duties they perform, and an employment contract should be in place. The Local Government Industry Award may be used as a guide when determining wages for administration staff. Trusts can calculate the current award rate using the Fair Work Ombudsman’s online .
Note: If the secretary is also an appointed member of the trust, they must not receive any payment for this role other than reimbursement of reasonable expenses as approved by the trust.
Responsibilities of the secretary will vary depending on the size and operations of the cemetery trust. The secretary may be responsible for providing administrative support including:
- preparing and circulating meeting papers including the agenda, reports and previous meeting minutes
- organising meetings including confirming location, attendance and apologies
- minute taking including recording conflicts of interest, decisions and actions
- maintaining trust policies including trust meeting rules and decision-making processes
- supporting compliance with legislative requirements
- facilitating induction of new trust members
- ensuring effective information flows within the trust
- undertaking a range of operational functions related to the cemetery services, for example the sale of rights of interment and memorials, taking interment/funeral bookings, and attending interment services as the trust’s delegate to check and receive documentation.
The department has developed a Secretary’s handbook for secretaries of Class B cemetery trusts. The handbook provides information and advice about the essential parts of the secretary’s role. It is designed to assist with the induction of new secretaries and provide a useful resource for existing secretaries.
Conflicts of interest
Cemetery trust members have a duty to place the public interest above their own interests. This helps to maintain the public’s confidence in the ability of trust members to act in the best interests of the trust and Victorian communities.
The trust chairperson or chairperson’s delegate is responsible for ensuring conflicts of interest are managed appropriately and the duty to prioritise the public interest is maintained. See the Managing conflicts of interest factsheet for more information.
Trust members are required to disclose conflicts at a trust meeting as soon as possible after becoming aware of a conflict. The person presiding at the trust meeting must ensure that the disclosure is recorded in the meeting minutes and the trust must take appropriate action.
From time to time the department becomes aware of potential trust member conflicts that have not been declared to the trust. In these circumstances the department will contact the trust to request the trust discusses the potential conflict with the trust member as soon as practicable and takes appropriate action.
Trust members who have disclosed or been identified as having a conflict are expected to enter into a conflict of interest management plan with the trust as soon as practicable.
Conflict of interest management plan
A conflict of interest management plan is a written document that specifies a trust member’s conflict/s and strategies for managing the conflict/s.
Both the trust member and the trust chairperson or chairperson’s delegate are required to sign the document and agree to a schedule for periodic review of the plan.
The trust member is responsible for acting in accordance with the plan and implementing agreed management actions. The trust chairperson or chairperson’s delegate is responsible for reviewing the plan as per the agreed schedule.
The department has developed a Conflict of interest management plan template for Class B cemetery trusts.
Cemetery trust member conduct
There is an expectation that cemetery trust members will act in good faith, fair and impartially, with honesty and integrity, and in the best interests of the trust and their communities. As members of a public entity, trust members:
- are subject to the public sector values outlined in s. 7 of the Public Administration Act, which include responsiveness, integrity, impartiality, accountability, respect and leadership
- must comply with the
- must comply with the issued by the Victorian Public Sector Commission.
Managing poor trust member behaviour
On occasion trust members behave poorly, and this can have a significant impact on other trust members and the ability of the trust to function effectively.
Class B cemetery trust chairpersons are responsible for managing poor trust member behaviour and are expected to set a positive example for all trust members.
The Trust member conduct and managing poor behaviour factsheet provides information and advice about managing poor trust member behaviour, including steps to take if formal action is required.
Delegating cemetery trust powers
Section 15 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act provides for a cemetery trust to delegate many of its powers and functions under the Act to a trust member, the trust secretary or other trust employees.
The Delegating cemetery trust powers factsheet provides information about the powers and can and cannot be delegated under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act and the cemetery trust’s accountability for the exercise of powers or functions by a delegate.
Instrument of delegation
Trust delegations should be recorded in an instrument of delegation that is signed by the trust chairperson and trust secretary on behalf of the trust and recorded in the minutes of the relevant trust meeting.
The department has developed an Instrument of delegation template for Class B cemetery trusts.
The department’s Secretary may give directions to cemetery trusts under s. 18 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act. The directions help to ensure that cemetery trusts act responsibly and legally.
In 2010, the department’s Secretary issued directions to all cemetery trusts regarding records, expenditure and other functions and powers under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act.
Fraud and corruption control
All cemetery trusts are required to have a documented fraud and protected disclosure policy. The department has developed a Fraud, Corruption Control and Protected Disclosures Framework template which is designed to provide organisations with a ‘fill in the blanks’ policy structure that they can adapt for their use.
Chairpersons are required to maintain a skills matrix for the trust. A skills matrix lists all current trust members and identifies the different skills each member brings to the trust. The skills matrix is designed to assist with the recruitment process to fill vacancies by highlighting existing skill gaps.
All chairpersons are expected to keep a copy of the skills matrix on file and keep the document updated as trust membership changes. The department has developed a Class B cemetery trust skills matrix template that may be amended to meet the trust’s needs.
Class B cemetery trust member fees and allowances
Under clause 5(1) of schedule 1 of the Act, a member of a Class B cemetery trust, other than a member who is an employee of the public service, is entitled to receive travelling and other allowances from time to time fixed by the Minister in respect of that member. Pursuant to clause 5(2) of schedule 1 of the Act, the travelling and other allowances payable to a member of a cemetery trust are to be paid from the funds of that trust.
Claims for expenses must be reasonable and necessary. An expense is deemed necessary if it is unavoidably incurred in the course of authorised work. Expenses can only be paid upon presentation of receipts and these must be endorsed by the chairperson of the trust. Where a chairperson claims expenses, receipts must be endorsed by an authorised trust member.
The travelling and other allowances incurred in accordance with the below fee structure are payable up to a maximum of $4,000 per annum:
- travelling expenses: up to $2,000
- postage and administrative expenses: up to $2,000.
Free rights of interment for trust members
Trusts do not have the power under the Act to waive the gazetted fee for a right of burial for fellow trust members or former trust members. If you have any queries about this matter, please contact the department.
Reviewed 27 November 2023