The ACT Government has promised to build Canberra’s first public crematorium after strong feedback to a recent consultation about cemeteries and crematoria in the ACT.
The ACT is the only state or territory where its primary cemeteries are interment only, and currently only has one crematorium, the privately operated Norwood Park Crematorium in Mitchell.
ACT Cemeteries Authority will build and operate the new public crematorium at Gungahlin Cemetery alongside the current facilities. It is expected that it will cost $2 million to build.
Minister for City Services Chris Steel said that during recent consultations, a “strong view” was put forward that cemeteries and crematoria services should be a public service provided by the ACT Government.
“We heard that the services weren’t meeting the needs and they would benefit from a Government-run facility,” Mr Steel said. “Our city is growing so we are investing in a new facility now to meet community needs.”
Mr Steel said the ACT Government decided to build the first public crematorium alongside the private facility in Mitchell after the community consultation found that the public did not want Woden’s cemetery to expand.
The ACT Government has also started the detailed planning work to develop a new cemetery in Southern Memorial Park which is located on Long Gully Road, where Mr Steel said there is potential for another crematorium to operate.
“The city is growing and we are going to hit half a million people by 2030 and we only have one crematorium,” Mr Steel said. “Currently, the community is having to wait a considerable amount of time to get in for a cremation at the existing facility.
“We know that the city can probably have around three to four to meet the needs of the community.”
Mr Steel said 11 per cent of responders to last year’s community engagement process said the ACT was not meeting the cultural and religious needs of the multicultural community.
Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities traditionally view the body directly before a cremation or during the actual cremation as the last rites are performed by the eldest child. Mr Steel said families were travelling to Sydney or Melbourne or even go back to India in order to deliver the last rites.
“That is not good enough for our inclusive and welcoming city,” Mr Steel said. “We should be providing those services here in Canberra.
“We have a vibrant multicultural community and it’s important that people have access to the services they need here. We’re committed to ensuring that all Canberrans can access cemetery and crematorium services.”