MP has grave concerns


Northern Victoria MP Wendy Lovell has criticised Sunbury cemetery and Remembrance Parks Central Victoria (RPCV) following the alleged desecration of a grave in Sunbury.

Ms Lovell spoke in parliament on Tuesday, February 6, and said the responsible minister needs to immediately order an investigation into the incident.

In a statement about the alleged desecration she said the start of 2024 followed a similar trend for RPCV which has been plagued by recent new year scandals.In 2022 it was the board’s plan to increase the cost of burials that caused controversy, and 2023 started with the desecration of graves as memorials were removed.

This year there was the alleged desecration of another grave, she said.

According to Ms Lovell, Romsey residents Theresa and Dennis Ness laid their son James to rest at the Sunbury cemetery on January 19.

James’ death was traumatic enough for the family, but they were further shocked and angered to visit his grave site a few days after the burial only to discover that it looked like an excavation site.

The grass area around James’ grave had been dug up, and workers had drilled holes into the ground that were filled with concrete and had steel rods sticking out, Ms Lovell said in her statement.

Fragments of wood and metal were allegedly found in the dirt on the surface of the grave, and according to Ms Lovell Sunbury cemetery and RPCV trust initially disputed that there had been any damage to James’ coffin.

The fragments of wood have reportedly since been confirmed to be from James’ coffin.

Ms Lovell is calling for the competency of RPCV trust board and its chair, Marg Lewis, to be examined.

“A lot of families who are mourning and in grief have suffered due to the insensitive manner in which the RPCV trust have dealt with the desecration of James’ grave, and other incidents including the removal of memorials from graves,” she said.

“The minister must launch an investigation into the circumstances that led to the desecration of James’ grave.

“[As well as] the handling of the complaint, and the competency of the current trust board and chair to sensitively manage the cemeteries they are responsible for.”

A spokesperson for RPCV, which manages and operates the Sunbury cemetery, said the organisation would not comment out of respect for the family whilst they work through these issues directly with them.

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas, who is responsible for the cemeteries and crematoria sector, was contacted for comment.