Reuse of cemetery sites in South Australia

The facts

The reuse of cemetery sites is part of South Australian state government legislation that has been in place since federation. The Burial and Cremation Act (2013) requires cemetery operators to adhere to a set of stringent procedures prior to reuse taking place.

The sale of cemetery sites in South Australia is based on a system of tenure purchase which resembles a lease. It is the obligation of the Interment Right Holder (formerly lease or licence holder) to ensure that the tenure of their cemetery site is current. Tenure must be current for subsequent burials to occur, or for repairs to the site to take place.

Should the tenure of a cemetery site lapse, ownership reverts to the cemetery and it becomes the right of the cemetery operator to maintain. In some cases, the cemetery operator may choose to reuse the site. However before this process occurs, legislation requires that the operator first set about a rigorous process whereby every measure is taken to first contact the Interment Right Holder, nearest living relative or any other interested party. 

It is mandatory that attempts to contact the Interment Right Holder or living relatives include letters, emails, telephone calls, a newspaper notice and a notice placed on the burial site. This process is carried out over a minimum of 24 months prior to reuse.

If there is no response to attempts to contact the Interment Right Holder, South Australian legislation allows for reuse of the burial site.

  • Even after all attempts to contact relatives have been made, reuse seldom happens immediately.
  • Anyone can renew a site – ownership does not revert to the person that renews, but it ensures that a site and any monumentation remains in place 
  • When reuse occurs, any remains of the original deceased person(s) are respectfully located, preserved and remain at the original site. Records are maintained in perpetuity. 

The benefits

The reuse of cemetery sites allows cemeteries to be properly maintained. Cemetery care typically calls for irrigation, mowing, horticultural care and maintenance of roads, pathways rubbish collection and other amenities, all of which incur significant costs, which rise annually in keeping with the CPI. Without reuse, funds are unavailable for maintenance and cemeteries fall into disrepair. As mentioned, cemetery records also need to be kept up to date and accessible to the public forever.  Finally, reuse balances the need for historical preservation – with some sites retained either through renewal or due to local significance – with the contemporary cemetery needs of the community. 

Reuse is an established, state government initiative. It is also a rigorous and fully transparent process that respects the deceased and their families while preserving beautiful cemeteries and memorial parks for generations to come. 

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