On Thursday 14th and Friday 15th April, ACCA held its 2021 Mid-Year Seminar in Cairns, in the far north of Queensland.
In addition to the seminar, we ran a One Day Training Course on 'Working Safely in Cemeteries'. Thanks to Fiona Hurst from Footprint Training for facilitating the course on the day.
Delegates relished the opportunity to travel outside of previously restricted COVID zones and came together as a group to share experiences and ideas with each other, and to network. Something that has been sadly missing from our industry over the past 12 months. The enthusiasm of the entire group was palpable. I have never seen such a positive contribution from so many people as I did in Cairns. Conversation flowed, questions were plentiful, and above all, we were grateful of being together and learning from each other.
The weather in Cairns was kind, and allowed the group to spend Thursday indoors working through the professional business program and training course. On Friday the sun came out and the group ventured to the 105 year-old Cairns General Cemetery. Our tour was led by Nathan Mills from the Cairns Regional Council, who did a great job in guiding us through the cemetery and explaining many of the facets of what is required to maintain such an historic and beautiful resting place for the Cairns and surrounding communities.
After our cemetery tour, we headed to the Heritage Brady Funeral Home and Crematorium for a look at a modern funeral and crematorium facility, built by the Heritage Family. Led by Chris Heritage, wife Kaylene and their son Brett and his wife Cher, the Heritage family serve the wider Cairns community and have an immaculately well-kept facility. They also focus on providing services that are thoughtful, respectful, and cognisant of the importance of the multi-cultural needs of their client families.
The professional program of the seminar gave delegates an insight into the development of maintenance standards of private & publicly run cemeteries, as well as a window into how the Catholic Cemeteries of NSW administer their cemetery maintenance program. Delegates also heard from one of the cemetery industry's most experienced members Brendan O'Connor. Brendan spoke about monument safety, and the many different aspects of ensuring that we are taking the necessary steps to present and maintain a safe environment for our grieving communities and those who visit cemeteries for all other purposes. This presentation hit a chord with many delegates, and we have received numerous requests for copies of Brendan's presentation to be made available.
With states and territories experiencing different levels of available cemetery space, strategists are looking at different methods of prolonging the life of cemeteries for future burial. This will inevitably result in cemeteries having to look at the revocation of interment rights. This is an area of cemetery administration that can be difficult to navigate but critical to get right. One of the Australian cemetery sector's key legal minds, lawyer Vera Visevic (Mills Oakley Lawyers) was on-hand to provide delegates with a detailed look at each state and territory's rules around the revocation of interment rights. This was a very interesting and insightful presentation, and one which produced a lot of conversation both during and after the session.
The mind boggles at the amount of data that flows through our businesses every day. How do we manage it, how safe is it, and what penalties could apply to us if we don't keep it properly secure? Chief Information Officer James Meyrick informed (and entertained) delegates with his engaging presentation of a topic that all of us can relate to in different ways. The 'Information Journey' has begun, and I suspect we (ACCA) will continue this journey at the Annual ACCA Conference in October in Canberra, such was the interest in this session.
Delegates finished the day on Thursday by participating in some team building activities where we got to know each other a little better. We crowned the inaugural ACCA Rock-Paper-Scissors champions, learnt that one of us has spent time in jail, one of us has captained a ship, and more than one of us has had life saving surgery. I'd be lying if I didn't say that the conversations on Thursday night at dinner weren't very colourful.
None of this fantastic event and experience would have been possible without the generous contribution of ACCA's sponsors. This group of people and organisations have felt the restrictions of COVID like no other. Not having the ability to physically move around the country and meet with us in person has meant an entirely new way of connecting with their customers (us). So it was wonderful to have almost all of them represented in person at the Mid-Year Seminar in Cairns. There was a great feeling of appreciation from the delegates towards our sponsors over these few days, as we all sought to reconnect in the manner that we have become accustomed to and in some ways taken for granted. Thank you to each and every one of ACCA's sponsors for supporting the Mid-Year Seminar, and for providing updates to delegates throughout the seminar on your latest products and services, and new developments. We could see how busy you all have been and how much you have missed the opportunity to be with your customers. Again, thank you.
I look forward to welcoming you all to the next ACCA event which will be our Annual Conference in Canberra in October (10-13) of this year. Save the date now. This year's annual conference and trade expo will hopefully be the biggest and best one yet!
Chief Executive Officer
Australasian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA)