In my role on the Greater Metropolitan Cemetery Trust community advisory committee, I now hear the term ‘future cemetery’ used quite frequently. Until recently they relied on the tried and true patterns or ideas about what a cemetery is. Right now, there are now many reasons to refresh that model:
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Why the future cemetery?
- Changing consumer expectations, for example for natural burial, shroud burial and green cemetery practices such as use of trees as grave markers
- Increasing pressure on urban space. Cemeteries occupy large tracts of land in areas that are under increasing land use pressure. Sure some people use them for recreation and walking the dog, but what might new and innovative uses of cemetery spaces look like?
- Climate change. Much of the landscaping to be found in Australian cemeteries is based around lawns and rose gardens. These are highly unsuitable in climate extremes. The maintenance cost of lawns is astronomical.
- Increasingly diverse populations. While Australian cemeteries have traditionally been designed with Anglo Australian values in mind, future cemeteries need to reflect the values of a multi-cultural society.
All good, but how do those who run cemeteries learn what their users want? It’s increasingly important that Trusts have community engagement plans (the GMCT has one under development). The community advisory committee plays a strong role in providing advice. The GMCT is currently seeking new members with appropriate skills for this committee. There is room for more linkages with local governments. And if you have feedback or a perspective on the Future Cemetery to offer, it’s worth getting in touch.