Key messages

  • Class A cemetery trusts are required to pay a levy to the Victorian Government.
  • The levy goes towards administering the act, making improvements to cemetery trust governance and administration and provision of services to the community.
  • The department calculates the levy due for each Class A cemetery trust on receipt of their annual report with audited financial statements.

As independent entities, cemetery trusts are the decision makers in relation to the provision and management of their services, setting of fees and expenditure of funds. The role of the department in the Victorian cemeteries sector is to administer the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 (the Act). Cemetery Sector Governance Support provides the sector with advice and support, reviews and implements legislation and strategic planning. It also performs a range of statutory functions as prescribed under the Act.

In 2009, the Act was amended to require Class A cemetery trusts to pay a levy to the Victorian Government. Section 18Q of the Act sets the levy at 3 per cent or a rate determined by the Minister, up to a maximum of 5 per cent, of each Class A cemetery trust’s gross earnings from the previous financial year.

The Act states that 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
  • the provision of services to the community.

Information about the definition of gross earnings is available at Class A cemetery trust finance.

 

  • Cemetery trust levy payment

    The department calculates the levy due for each Class A cemetery trust on receipt of their annual report with audited financial statements. A delegate of the Minister then writes to each Class A trust and provides an invoice for payment. While payment is invoiced to the department, all levy monies are paid into the Consolidated Fund. The Consolidated Fund is the Victorian Government’s primary financial account and receives all consolidated revenue from which payments, appropriated by parliament, are made. The levy was first collected in 2011–12.

  • Allocation of levy funds to the department

    There is no specific appropriation of funding in the budget against the levy. However, the Department of Treasury and Finance allocates $2.1 million to the department each year via the public health output for the purposes of the Act.

    Funds are allocated to three key areas of cemetery levy expenditure:

    • Cemetery trust grants – for the provision of grants to trusts for the purchase of equipment, improving infrastructure, cemetery maintenance, training and to address workplace health and safety issues.
    • Administration of the Act - relates to provision of resources for the department to operate Cemetery Sector Governance Support and undertake a range of statutory functions, in addition to supporting the sector in their day to day management of cemeteries and encouraging and monitoring compliance with the Act.
    • Project funding - Cemetery Sector Governance Support initiates a range of projects that support sector capacity building, assist with policy development, or deliver training, audits and reviews. These projects target identified needs or gaps that are impacting the operations of trusts and delivery of cemetery services, and aim to deliver ongoing and long-term benefits to the cemeteries sector. 

    Cemetery trust grants

    The cemetery grants program was established to provide funding as a contribution to the cost of cemetery infrastructure, amenities, maintenance, equipment and training. The grants are available to both class A and B trusts; however, it is acknowledged that the Class B trusts, operated by 3,150 appointed volunteer members to provide cemetery services to their local communities, are often unable to generate sufficient funds to maintain or improve their facilities.

    Cemetery trusts may apply to the department for grants relating to their cemetery’s infrastructure, amenities, maintenance, equipment or for necessary training where they do not have funds available for the required expenditure. To apply for a grant, a cemetery trust must submit an application before any work commences. Grants are prioritised based on need. Generally, items relating to the maintenance of significant structures (such as fences), or that pose a threat to the safety of the public and cemetery staff (such as dangerous trees), are considered priority issues.

    See ‘Cemetery grant process and applications’ for more information. 

    Administration of the Act

    Cemetery Sector Governance Support manages the administration and implementation of the Act, as well as developing supporting policies and guidelines and issuing of statutory documents. In addition, the key functions of Cemetery Sector Governance Support are: 

    • provision of advice and support to the sector on a range of operational, governance and management issues through responding to trust telephone and written enquiries, and develops and distributes information and advice via quarterly newsletters, cemetery trust manuals, the cemeteries website and sector meetings.
    • development of tools and systems to assist trusts to meet their obligations under the Act – for example
      • development of fee-setting worksheets to assist trusts to understand the breakdown of their cost structures when setting fees for their services
      • the development and provision of right of interment registers to assist trusts to comply with their record-keeping obligations under the Act
      • development of standard documents for use by the sector
      • development of a range of guideline documents, including for cemetery land development, managing native vegetation, mausoleum establishment and construction, establishment of crematoria and copyright of trust records
    • monitoring compliance with the Act by ensuring that the trust’s statutory reporting requirements are met, and undertaking investigations into complaints relating to trust governance and fraud
    • evaluation and endorsement of trust fee applications
    • management of the cemetery trust member appointment process
    • coordination of cemetery issues with other agencies, such as
      • Valuer General Victoria – methodology for the valuation of cemetery land
      • Victorian Auditor General – special investigations, annual reporting and planned audits
      • Department of Treasury and Finance – GST and trust charitable tax status
      • State Revenue Office – stamp duty and fire services levy
      • Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning – native vegetation controls
      • Metropolitan Planning Authority – remaining cemetery land capacity for state-wide strategic planning
    • provision of advice to the public about the operation of the Act.

    Project funding

    The introduction of the levy has increased opportunities for Cemetery Sector Governance Support to fund projects with a strategic focus aimed at addressing emerging sector issues and delivering long-term benefits. In particular, a number of sector reform initiatives were identified from recommendations of the former State Services Authority's report Review of cemetery trusts, June 2007. 

    Typically, these projects incorporate a range of activities to support the development of the sector as a whole, including:

    • research and analysis, to better understand sector issues and pressures
    • identification of policy gaps and priority areas of need
    • recommendations, to improve the administration and management of cemetery trusts
    • initiatives, to enhance the public’s experience of cemeteries
    • provision of support and tools, to increase sector capacity in regards to good governance, and provision of cemetery services. For example
      • the provision of governance training that is available throughout Victoria for all Class A and B trust members, and their key staff
      • the review of the common chart of accounts for Class A trust members
      • the development and distribution of financial guidelines for Class B trusts to ensure appropriate financial controls
      • the distribution of the estimation of the remaining capacity of Victorian cemeteries report to inform trust and sector strategic planning.
  • Requirements of the minister and department

    Under the Act, the minister must ensure information on the allocation and use of the levy is included in the department’s annual report. Specifically, in that financial year:

    • the total amount paid as levy
    • the total amount appropriated from the Consolidated Fund for the purposes of the Act
    • a summary of the areas on which money appropriated for the purposes of this Act was expended and the amounts expended.

    Information on funds allocated via the cemetery grants process is also published.

    Cemetery Sector Governance Support participates in the half-year and three-quarter year budget review. Funding underspends relating to projects are redirected to cemetery grants.

    At the end of the year any budget underspends are identified for rollover into the following year's Cemetery Sector Governance Support budget.