Mackay woman and former Proserpine resident Tegan Large. Picture: supplied
Mackay woman and former Proserpine resident Tegan Large. Picture: supplied

Woman slams council’s ‘heartless’ cemetery plan

A woman has been left “angry and upset” after finding out about Whitsunday Regional Council’s proposal to potentially remove items from gravesites, including her brother’s resting place.

Tegan Large’s five-year-old brother is buried at Proserpine Cemetery and her family regularly places ornaments and flowers at his grave on special occasions.

But like many other people in the Whitsunday region, Ms Large was furious to find out the council wanted to put a stop to this.

In a Facebook post published on Friday, the council said it was asking residents to visit their site and remove any excess memorabilia, ornaments or flowers to keep the areas “tidy and safe”.

“The policy allows fresh flowers over the gravesite for the first month after interment and after that period a vase may be purchased from council for display of artificial flowers. Other items or structures are only allowed with the approval of council,” the post read.

It went on to say that residents needed to remove any excess items by Friday, March 19 or the council would step in to remove items which may pose a risk to visitors and staff.

Ms Large said it was not fair on families for the council to take that right away from them.

“How can the council make that decision? Do they not have family in that cemetery?” she said.

“I feel it’s a heartless decision to make.

“Part of being in such a small town is having that support and people behind you when you go through something like that. That’s part of being in Proserpine – I grew up there.

“It just seems like a big city thing to do to a small town.”

While Ms Large agreed that cemeteries should be kept tidy, she said the council had gone about the matter in the wrong way.

“Mowing the lawn is only part of the job, taking care of the space is the other part of the job,” she said.

“I have been to the cemetery three times in the past couple of months and I’ve had to pull out weeds (from around the gravesite).”

The Daily Mercury contacted the council for comment, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Proserpine Cemetery. Picture: Matthew Newton / The Guardian
Proserpine Cemetery. Picture: Matthew Newton / The Guardian

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In a statement posted on Facebook addressing the controversy, Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said he was not aware the message about gravesites was going to be posted.

“The Whitsunday region’s cemeteries have not been discussed by myself and elected councillors in a council meeting in recent times, and as such I ask for the appropriate time to address this sensitive topic with councillors, the CEO and senior council staff,” Cr Willcox said.

“After these discussions an official statement will be released.

“Please understand that I cannot provide official comment until the matter has been discussed with my fellow councillors.

“I apologise for any distress and upset this has caused, and I will ensure the council continues to create a peaceful environment within the cemeteries for the community to grieve and remember lost loved ones.”

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