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Tributes on children's graves a "health and safety" threat

SHATTERED: Mary Beck at her daughter’s grave at Warrill Park Lawn Cemetery. Mary is upset that the cemetery staff have placed letters on graves asking for all trinkets to be removed.
SHATTERED: Mary Beck at her daughter’s grave at Warrill Park Lawn Cemetery. Mary is upset that the cemetery staff have placed letters on graves asking for all trinkets to be removed. Sarah Harvey

IPSWICH families have been given 21 days to remove trinkets from the graves of their loved ones buried at Warrill Park Lawn Cemetery - because of "workplace health and safety" concerns.

Ipswich Cemeteries, which took lease of the Willowbank grounds from Ipswich City Council last June, has left letters on each of the graves in the nursery section asking families to remove all ornaments other than two standard vases as they "hindered maintenance" and posed a "safety hazard for visitors and staff".

Mary Beck said she was distraught when she found the letter on the grave site of her baby daughter Keira, who died in 2004 of a rare genetic condition.

"We can understand them wanting to clean things up, especially if something is old or broken, but let us bring a few little trinkets to our children for Christmas or on their birthdays - these are our babies," she told the QT.

... Let us bring a few little trinkets to our children for Christmas or on their birthdays - these are our babies.

Mrs Beck said the issue about additional ornaments had been previously raised with the Friends of the Cemeteries group, but for the past five years nothing was done to stop them decorating the graves.

"The day my husband and I came out here to bury our daughter, we were told by someone who worked here that if we buried her in the adult section we were limited to two vases. If we buried her in the nursery section we could put extra stuff on the grave," she said.

"It was really upsetting to come out and be told to remove your stuff or it would be removed for you.

"We do everything we can to keep it as clean and tidy for them as possible.

"We're willing to work with the cemetery, but they have to understand we don't get to celebrate Christmas or birthdays at home with our children. This is all we get.

We're willing to work with the cemetery, but they have to understand we don't get to celebrate Christmas or birthdays at home with our children.

"It's going to be her birthday in a couple of days, so how can I tell her grandparents don't bring her a little present? And if the vase is full, take your flowers away."

Grounds supervisor Rick Nice said it was in Ipswich Cemeteries' contract with council to keep the cemetery as clean as possible. He said families were only ever permitted to have two standard vases in all sections of the cemetery.

"It's basically a workplace health and safety issue for us so we have to make sure it is clean," Mr Nice said.

"We know it's an emotive issue, but it is getting to the point where we can't maintain the cemetery."

We know it's an emotive issue, but it is getting to the point where we can't maintain the cemetery.

He said he was worried if the trinkets were hit with a mower or whipper snipper they could injure someone.

Chief memorial officer Alayne Duncan said letters were placed at graves in the main section last year.

"It's taken six months to clear the main cemetery," she said.

"There was really no other way for us to contact families."

Cr Andrew Antoniolli, chair of the Friends of Cemeteries group, said he felt for the families involved, but council policy had always been two vases.

"This is a hugely emotive issue and when it comes to our loved ones it can't get more emotive than a child," he said.

"The problem is, particularly in the nursery area.

"Council staff will be working with the service provider to come up with a solution that maintains a degree of sympathy ... I'm sure a compromise will come of this."

Council staff will be working with the service provider to come up with a solution that maintains a degree of sympathy ... I'm sure a compromise will come of this.

He said Ipswich Cemeteries were considering the design of the nursery area which could create opportunities to memorialise loved ones in the future.

Topics:  andrew antoniolli, editors picks, health and safety, ipswich city council, warrill park lawn cemetery




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