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Cemeteries and Crematoria Bill 2019

Madam Speaker, in preparation for addressing this bill, the Canberra Liberals have consulted widely with diverse religious communities across our territory. In doing so, we have spoken to both recognised faith leaders and everyday followers. We confirmed with members of the Muslim and Jewish faiths that cremation is not a part of either tradition. We also consulted representatives from Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities. We likewise discussed this matter with the Sukyo Mahikari and Brahma Kumaris organisations.

Of those faiths whose followers access cremation services, most expressed full satisfaction with the current provision of those services in Canberra. Only three recommendations for improvement were shared with us, all three from the Hindu community. First, it is part of Hindu practice that a son or close relative of the deceased be the one to light the fire that consumes the body. In India and elsewhere, where cremation involves funeral pyres, this is an actual fire. In Canberra, the process involves a button or switch, and we have heard that it would be desirable for kin to be allowed to initiate the actual cremation process in order to allow for the maintenance of this important tradition.

The second issue raised with us involves the number of family members and others who can currently participate in the final rites by being physically present in the place of cremation. It has been recommended that the space could be larger in order to accommodate more family and friends in these final rites.

Finally, we have been told that some people have experienced delays in obtaining a departed family member’s ashes. Ideally, this should happen within 24 hours, but it appears that sometimes it has been taking longer. Speeding up this process would be welcomed.

In sharing this information with the Assembly, Madam Speaker, I wish to thank those who have so generously and sensitively responded to our requests for clarity. I am grateful for both the diversity and the vibrancy of the faiths and cultures that can be found in the ACT. Thank you.

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