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.

The department does not deal with complaints relating to funeral directors. For issues concerning funeral directors, please contact Consumer Affairs Victoria - call 1300 558 181.

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 or procedures, it is the trust’s responsibility to investigate the complaint and, where necessary, review the policies and procedures which relate to 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.

Managing complaints - a guide for cemetery trusts

Cemetery trusts are responsible for managing complaints about their own services and activities. The department has prepared 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 program for advice if they are unsure about the best way to manage a specific complaint.

Complaints about 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.

Complaints among cemetery 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 view points 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.

Referring complaints to the department

There are limited circumstances in which the department can review the conduct of cemetery trusts.

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.

Other complaints

If a cemetery trust has made a decision that a person considers is not consistent with the trust’s powers under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 (the Act), the department can, if it agrees with that view, ask the cemetery trust to review the decision.

If a trust is not prepared to change its decision after the department has asked for a review, a person can consider further options to address the disputed decision, including:

Dispute settlement

It is recommended that where an issue cannot be resolved directly between the trust and the complainant, the trust attempt to seek resolution 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 and can be contacted by telephone on 1300 372 888.

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 Act, 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.

For more general information regarding dispute management, visit the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria website.

Contact details