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Kamper to clarify cemeteries trust with new law

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Lauren Hardgrove, chief executive officer of Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust. Photo: Supplied.

New South Wales Parliament will soon clarify the purpose of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust and confirm its expansion to new burial sites.

Introducing a Bill into the lower house on 6 June, the first anniversary of the death of the trust’s former CEO Peter O’Meara, Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper said it will bring the “cemetery wars to a close.”

The trust, which operates not-for-profit cemeteries at Rookwood, North Rocks, Liverpool and Kemps Creek expects to open its new site at Varroville in March 2025.

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For years, led by O’Meara, it worked to secure its ongoing role and future in the cemeteries sector and fought off an attempt by the former NSW government in 2021 to place it into administration and merge it into a single state-controlled model called One Crown.

“[Peter] not only had to constantly fight against government pressure to keep his organisation going, but he also continued to improve the delivery and availability of affordable burial and cremation services to those of all faiths and none,” Kamper said.

“I am pleased to say that this bill will bring the cemetery wars to a close and is a fitting tribute to Peter’s memory.”

In February the NSW Court of Appeal confirmed the trust’s status as a charitable organisation which confirmed its independence, but also highlighted its purpose under original legislation for burying the dead of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rookwood cemetery. Photo: Giovanni Portelli.

In his second reading speech, Kamper explained that the trust has acted in “good faith” in providing services for all, but that new legislation expanding its purposes is required as a matter of urgency before a 1 July deadline for implementing Sydney’s new cemetery provision arrangements.

“As a modern Crown cemetery operator, CMCT manages its cemeteries as a portfolio and for the benefit of all people in need of burial services,” he said.

“It is critical that CMCT’s successor is empowered to continue to do so.

“The bill expands the trust’s narrow purpose. CMCT’s successor will be able to use those trust funds to bury people of all faiths, and those without a faith, across all its Crown cemeteries.”

Current CEO Lauren Hardgrove confirmed to The Catholic Weekly that the bill is a necessary update to the Trust’s charitable purpose from the 1867 Necropolis Act definition and is confident it will be made law later this month.

“This modernises the purpose of the trust and brings into the 21st century,” she said.

“The timing was just phenomenal, coming on Peter’s one-year anniversary,” she added.

“This bill was introduced after he spent 10 years fighting to have this implemented to secure our future moving forward.

“So it’s sad to not have him with us, but at the same time we can breathe a sigh of relief.”

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