Draft Cemetery Policy Condobolin

Editorial Opinion. Draft Cemetery Policy

Editorial Melissa Blewitt.

This is very hard for me to say. It was a sad day for democracy in the Lachlan Shire last Wednesday. Councillors who have been elected to “represent” me, don’t seem to “represent” me at all.  Solar lights are now no longer allowed in the lawn section of the Condobolin Cemetery despite the Cemetery Committee and staff recommending they be allowed.  I feel so deflated that those that were elected to represent me, failed in their duty to give me a voice on such an important and emotional issue.

For 28 days the Draft Condobolin Cemetery Policy was on display. By the end of the display period there were four submissions received, two of which verbalised a strong dislike for solar lights. As a consequence of these two submissions and the support of Lachlan Shire Councillors, solar lights will no longer be permitted in the lawn section of the Condobolin Cemetery.

The Condobolin Cemetery Advisory Committee recommended two solar lights measuring 30 centimetres or less be allowed, but that was rejected in favour of no solar lights at all.

Lachlan Shire Councillors decided to go against the Condobolin Cemetery Advisory Committee, even though they voted for the Draft Policy as it was exhibited. To me, this doesn’t make any sense.

Two members of the community in their submissions described solar lights as “absolutely terrible” and “disgusting”. I don’t understand, what could be described as, the irrational hatred of solar lights. Grief is grief. When a loved one passes away, it changes people inside. Everyone should be able to express it in a way that helps them. Even those who disagree with the way I choose to honour my loved ones. I do not go to the cemetery to judge how others honour their loved ones. No one else should either.

To some residents solar lights may be “disgusting” to others they brighten up the night for their loved one. Some parents may want to put up solar lights so their child is not alone in the dark. I, for one, don’t think I have the right to say they can’t. I’ll leave that up to those that think they know better than the wider community to tell grieving parents that.

For the record I am on the Condobolin Cemetery Committee. For months some members argued for a little less restriction. Then after a marathon meeting in June, supported by over 15 community members,  a consensus was reached where mementos and trinkets were permitted as long as they were confined to the plinth area and were under 30 centimetres high. Two solar lights, yes two, not four or 10, would be allowed as long as they measured up to 30 centimetres.

It was a hard fight. At the May meeting a motion was rushed through with no serious debate, where the Policy would have had allowed only two trinkets under 10cm high,  no solar lights and a significant increase in fees associated with burial costs. Three members of the committee (one of them was me) wrote to Council asking that it be deferred back to the Committee for review. Councillors agreed to do that, and so the Draft Policy was reached.

When community sentiment is overridden by the actions of a few, then I think we have a problem.

Councillors are elected to represent the entire community not just a small section. There was no cemetery policy until December 2014. Then an Advisory Committee was formed early this year to debate and form policy. This was in response to a community backlash against the original policy.

At last week’s meeting a councillor declared “They [the cemetery committee] are just an advisory committee. They don’t make the important decisions.” So my question is. If Councillors know better than the community, why is there a need to have a committee at all? Perhaps if you belittle the community’s role in decision making, that is why the Shire is struggling to find people who want to make a valuable contribution. Just a thought.

Before the vote the question “So you all know what you are voting on?” was asked. All other councillors indicated they did. So there you have it. Councillors Scott, Brady, Saunders, Hall, Phillips, Frankel and Ridley have made a decision and now they have to defend it. As ratepayers you have the right to ask why they made the decision. I hope you do.

This debate is not about solar lights. It is about the principle of letting the community have their say and feel like they are being heard. Why does Condobolin Cemetery have to conform to other town’s ideas of what a lawn cemetery should look like? I think we have lost our way, when policy becomes about prettiness and not about the people in the community.

I believe when a councillor is elected, they represent the entire Lachlan Shire. Not just the town/area they live in. I believe it is time for change. If you want to see change or send a strong message, then you can stand or vote at the September Council elections. I want to be proud to say I am from the Lachlan Shire. I want the councillors elected to represent me to stand up for what is in the best interest of the Shire.  I want integrity, honesty and compassion. I don’t think Lachlan Shire residents should have to settle for less.

Note. The opinions expressed in this editorial are mine alone and do not represent the views of The Condobolin Argus newspaper.

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