Ballarat Cemeteries jobs guarantee

CERTAIN: Ballarat Cemeteries Trust chairman Judy Verlin and chief executive Annie De Jong discuss changes to the trust's business model. Picture Kate Healy

CERTAIN: Ballarat Cemeteries Trust chairman Judy Verlin and chief executive Annie De Jong discuss changes to the trust's business model. Picture Kate Healy

Ballarat Cemeteries Trust management has assured employees at its two sites that jobs will remain protected ahead of enterprise bargaining negotiations.

Negotiations for pay and conditions for the trust’s five indoor and 11 outdoor staff will soon to start.

Trust chairman Judy Verlin said the staff, some of whom have been employed for more than 30 years, were valued for their experience.

“Our staff are in a unique position because of the situations they deal with,” she said.

“Every day they deal with families and grief, and we try to value our staff for the service they provide.”

The trust manages two sites in the municipality.

The Ballarat Old Cemetery on Creswick road has been filled to capacity, while the Ballarat New Cemetery on Singlers Road has plots still available.

Despite its name, the Ballarat New Cemetery was built 150 years ago, but still has space for an estimated 70 years.

Trust chief executive Annie De Yong said the cemetery had engaged in a sweeping review 12 months ago that investigated its operations.

“In other state, outside of Victoria, they have deregulated competition so anyone can do it,” she said.

“There is a lot of competition in the cremation market because people can choose to do it anywhere in Australia now,” she said.

“Some funeral services found it cheaper to take people over the border, cremate them, then bring them back for burial.”

To combat the interstate challenge Ballarat Cemeteries has readjusted its own business model, including a slashing of cremation costs.

This was matched by a move to a greater focus on a user pays system.

State government legislation requires the trust to maintain the cemetery “in perpetuity”.

This means there are ongoing costs for trust, long after families have stopped paying for a grave site.

Ms Verlin said the next challenge was to open up the cemetery to new cultural groups arriving in Ballarat.

“There is an increase in diversity, we have significant heritage areas here already with the Chinese section, and significant heritage with the RSL section,” she said.

“But some of these cultural groups still decide to go back to Melbourne for burial to feel part of their communities there.”