Department of Health

Frequently asked questions about cemetery trust

Answers to questions asked by cemetery trust members.

Frequently asked questions

  • How do Class B trusts value cemetery assets and do they depreciate over time?

    The value of assets for class B cemetery trusts is recorded as the amount paid for them at the time of purchase and the information required under the abstract of accounts does not require a trust to depreciate assets over time.

  • Is there any assistance available for recruiting trust members, particularly younger members?

    The department places advertisements in local papers when trust vacancies occur. There is also guidance material available at Class B appointments

    Can a funeral director be appointed to a cemetery trust?

    A trust may wish to endorse the application of a funeral director for appointment to the trust but must develop a plan to ensure the conflict of interest is managed appropriately. At a minimum an appointed funeral director must be:

    • required to remove themselves from trust meetings where the discussion relates directly to their business and provision of services,
    • prohibited from soliciting private business in their capacity as a trust member
    • restricted from accessing commercial information about competitors (e.g. pricing structures of other service providers).

    Further information about managing conflicts of interest is available on the Victorian Public Sector Commission website.


  • Does the Regulation for unsealed graves requiring of "750 millimetres of earth between coffin, container, receptacle or those remains and the normal level of the ground" apply in the case of natural/shroud burials?

    Yes – the minimum earth cover under the Regulations is dependent on the type of grave cover, not what the remains are encased/wrapped in. Natural or shrouded burials in an unsealed grave must have at least 750mm earth cover between the remains and the normal ground level.

  • Is there a template available to help trusts make agreements with contractors?

    Yes – The department and the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria have developed a template which is available on their website

  • It has been estimated that approximately 12% of ‘Victorian’ cremations are taking place across the border in NSW. What’s the department’s opinion of this practice of across border cremations?

    There is no legislation that prevents Victorians using intestate cremation services. A report by KPMG based on Births, Deaths and Marriages data found approximately 6% of Victorian disposals are performed interstate or overseas. It is not clear is how many cremations from interstate are performed in Victoria.

    The department estimates that the rate of cremations conducted in Victoria as a proportion of the number of deaths has remained steady over recent years as shown in the table below.

     Financial Year  Number of cremations performed in Victoria  Number of deaths in Victoria (approximate)  Percentage
     2015-16  20280  38482  53%
     2016-17  20921  38906  54%
     2017-18  21117  40339  52%
     2018-19  20554  40665  51%


  • Is it the responsibility of the trust or the funeral director to ensure that the doctor uses the correct form?

    If a funeral director is putting an application together on behalf of their client, it is the funeral director’s responsibility to ensure the application is complete and accurate (including associated paperwork) before submitting it to the trust.

    Do funeral directors receive the Cemetery Sector Governance Support newsletter?

    Yes – the Australian Funeral Directors Association receives an electronic copy of the department’s newsletters and they are encouraged to forward the newsletter to their members. 

  • Why was the question “Relationship to deceased?” removed from the Application for interment authorisation form? Can it be put back on the form?

    The applicant’s relationship to the deceased on the Application for interment authorisation form was removed when the Regulations were reviewed in 2014. The removal of this information was proposed by the department during the review consultation process on the basis that this information is not required for the purposes of the application. There were no substantial objections made and the question was removed.

    The question can be put back on the form but, as the form is prescribed, any alterations would necessitate a change to the Regulations. There would also need to be a clear justification as to why this information is pertinent to the application because it is not appropriate to require applicants to provide personal information unless the purpose has been clearly demonstrated and tested through consultation.

    Would the department consider altering the Application for interment authorisation form and Application for approval to inter cremated human remains form to capture the deceased’s birth name and participation in military service for the purposes of family historical research?

    The Application for interment authorisation form can be changed (through a change to the Regulations) but there needs to be a strong case justifying the collection of additional personal information in the context of the application.

    The Application for approval to inter cremated human remains form can be changed by the department because it is not a prescribed form. However, this type of requests for personal information would not be mandatory so providing an answer would be optional for applicants. Additional considerations would include defining what constitutes military service and whether evidence of military service or birth names would be required.

  • What is the department's view about the long-term supply and availability of burial land in metropolitan Melbourne?

    The department is working with the sector to develop a strategic plan for the provision of future cemetery services. Phase one of the plan identified future demand and preferences for cemetery services and a draft Strategic plan and land evaluation framework was developed. In January 2019 a cemeteries geospatial model was completed which provides the department with a tool that can be used to identify and forecast future supply and demand for cemetery land at the state-wide, local government area and cemetery levels. The second phase of the project is currently being scoped by the department.

    What role do you see for Government in the provision of future burial land?

    There is no government funding available for the purchase of new land for cemetery purposes.

    Where can trusts get guidance to assist with land acquisition?

    Guidance specifically for cemetery trusts is available at Land acquisition.

    Would a grant application be considered for trusts to engage a facilitator to assist a trust with the process of land acquisition?

    Yes – a cemetery trust may seek a grant for this purpose. 

  • Can the department provide an overview of how it spends the 3% cemetery levy and how it measures the value of the funds being reinvested back into the sector?

    As prescribed in the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003, the payment of the levy is for the purposes of assisting in defraying the costs of administering the Act, making improvements in cemetery trust governance and administration and the provision of services to the community. Details of this expenditure is available in the department’s annual reports. The department consults closely with the sector in relation to the distribution of the levy funds. 

    Why is the full amount of the levy collected from Class A Trusts not being returned to the cemeteries sector?

    The department has received additional funding as a result of the levy. This funding along with existing funding allocations for cemetery purposes means the department receives and expends funds on the cemetery sector that is approximately equal to the amount collected by the levy.

  • If a trust in a small country town receives requests to purchase plots from residents of Melbourne because the plots are cheaper, is the trust obliged to sell or can the trust decline due to the need to keep enough burial space available for the local community?

    It is up to the trust to decide how many pre-need rights of interment they make available for sale. As part of this consideration it is important for the trust to ensure there are enough “at need” plots available for at need burials. It is not appropriate to deny the purchase of an available pre-need right of interment based on where the purchaser lives. 

  • Can a trust accept documents issued by Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) with the Registrar’s electronic signature?

    Yes – any document issued by BDM on their security paper with the Registrar’s electronic signature is an original document. 

    Can a trust accept a copy of a document instead of the original document?

    Yes – trusts can accept certified copies of documents and uncertified copies can be accepted for low risk applications. If the trust requests an original document but it is not possible for one to be provided, the trust may instead accept a certified copy or a statutory declaration attesting to the validity of an uncertified copied document at its discretion.

    Can the trust dispose of original documents if they have been scanned and saved electronically?

    Yes – however the original documents must be disposed of in accordance with the Retention and Disposal Authority for Cemetery and Crematoria Records and digitisation must be conducted in accordance with digitisation specifications  issued by the Public Records Office Victoria. 

    Is there a way for trusts to access burial data held by BDM at no cost? 

    No – there is a cost associated with BDM data searches and the cost depends on the breadth of the search. However, trusts may submit a grant application seeking funds to meet these costs.

  • Sometimes families are not aware of who the right of interment holder is or the implications of becoming the holder until they want to organise memorialisation and find the holder is not a family member. How can this be addressed?

    The Right of interment permit and fact sheet  were developed in 2014 to help people understand the rights and obligations of the right of interment holder. When a right of interment is purchased, the trust should provide the purchaser with the completed permit and fact sheet to make sure they are fully informed.

  • What award is the most appropriate to be applied to a paid secretary role?

    The Local Government Industry Award can be used as a guide when determining wages for administration staff.

    Example: Administration staff level 1
    $20.23 per hour for full time and part time workers. 
    $25.29 per hour for casual workers. 

    See the Fair Work Ombudsman website for more information.

    Is there any specialised training available for trust secretaries?

    No – however developing a pilot training course specifically for secretaries is currently being considered.

Reviewed 24 November 2021


Contact details

Hours: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

Cemetery Sector Governance Support Postal address: Cemetery Sector Governance Support Department of Health GPO Box 4057 Melbourne VIC 3001

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