More than 75 Muslim leaders representing over 20 Islamic organisations gathered at Kemps Creek cemetery, Western Sydney on Sunday 5 December to urge NSW Government not to delay the provision for much needed burial spaces in Sydney. The gathering was addressed by NSW Leader of the Opposition, Chris Minns who assured of his full support to resolve the matter.
NSW Property Minister, Ms Melinda Pavey has been pushing ahead with plans to merge all five Sydney cemetery trusts under one single government-controlled model called One Crown.
A number of speakers at the event urged the Premier of NSW, Dominic Perrottet to step in and resolve the protracted negotiations about the future of the cemetery trusts as it is delaying the construction of much needed burial spaces for them in Sydney.
The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust’s (CMCT) Kemps Creek cemetery have been successfully providing much needed, cost-effective burial spaces for Muslims in recent years and have approved development plans to do the same at two other sites in Western Sydney.
CMCT CEO, Peter O’Meara said that burial space in greater Sydney is in rapid decline and his organization has plans to open new cemeteries at Wallacia and Varroville to help it meet rising demand.
But the NSW Government has blocked the plans and threatens to place the CMCT into administration by the end of the year with no apparent justification.
Mr Minns said, “there is no excuse for the NSW Government to further delay the decision to allow the CMCT to continue offering cost-effective burials for Muslims and other faith groups, which it has been doing successfully for more than 150 years.”
He was accompanied by the Shadow Minister for Water, Housing and Multi-Cultural Affairs, Mr Steve Kamper attending the event.
Mr Minns asked, “The question for Minister Pavey is why would you take the most affordable and the most efficient and put it into a business that hasn’t been able to achieve those sorts of outcomes?”
“It just doesn’t make sense and the only reason is that they want to get rid of faith-based associations from this sector,” Mr Minns argued.
“The Catholic Cemeteries Trust has forged partnerships with waves of immigrant communities from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism- all have been respected and all the individuals have had their needs accommodated,” Mr Minns concluded.
The CMCT has developed a close relationship with the Muslim Cemeteries Board (MCB) over many years providing a dedicated Muslim Lawn at Kemps Creek cemetery meeting needs of the Muslim community while accommodating all Islamic regulations for Muslim burials, including burial of still born foetuses and free digging, perpetual maintenance and headstones on the graves for the destitute.
Mr Kazi Ali, President of the MCB said, “Our gathering has been a graphic demonstration of our concern about the NSW Government inaction about the looming shortage of burial spaces for our people, as well as a show of support for the continued operation of the CMCT.”
He further added, “Over the last five years with the help of CMCT, we have established a Muslim Lawn Cemetery at Kemps Creek. While the number of plots at Kemps Creek presently meet our short-term needs, we are fast running out of space and within five to seven years there will be no burial plots for Muslims to bury their loved ones in Western Sydney.”
“We have been relying on two new cemetery developments conceived and acquired in Varroville and Wallacia by the CMCT for our future needs, but both projects have been put on hold two years ago by the Minister for Water, Property and Housing for no apparent reason,” Mr Ali concluded.
Anjum Rafiqi of the Australian Kashmiri Association said “We would like to see the current arrangement continue into the future”, referring to the continued operation of Kemps Creek Cemetery by the CMCT.”
Zawar Hussain Shah from Alamdar Association said, “We are quite satisfied with the running of the cemetery by the CMCT and found them most credible, fair, transparent, open, well organised, professionally managed and very sensitive to the people of the faith and the general masses.
“The CMCT must remain independent and separate from the so called OneCrown”, he added.
Jasim Ahmed from Muslim Cemeteries Board expressed his concern about lack of a clear business case for OneCrown in the 11th hour report saying the report, “contains no financial model for the amalgamated entity and no detail on how it will operate. We don’t know how the new model will work at what time frame, what impact it will have on cost of burial plots.”
“I am dismayed with the thought of NSW Government accepting a report that recommends a new organization with no clear financial, organizational, or operational plan. We as a community feel by supporting OneCrown we will only be supporting an uncertain future in exchange of a proven model that delivers cheapest burial for us,” he further added.
Mr Mohammad Azom, Secretary of the Al-Barakah Welfare Trust Australia (Quakers Hill Mosque), said, “We are concerned about the looming shortage in burial spaces across Sydney in our Muslim community and we believe that CMCT is the best place to deliver them.”
Mohammed Azamy of Afghan community expressed his strong support for Muslim Cemetery Board’s active support for the Muslim community and the clear benefit of working with CMCT. “We should stick to what works,” he said.
Mr Rachid Ben Zerouk, Chair of the Moroccan Sydney Association said, “We congratulate the CMCT for their great achievements as an independent not-for-profit organisation, managing and delivering high quality cemetery services to a diverse range of communities and families across Western Sydney.”
“We have witnessed the diversity of the many communities serviced by the CMCT and are very impressed with their efforts into assisting and given a helping hand to all people”, he further added.
Dr Anisul Afsar, President of Australian Muslim Welfare Centre Inc, said, “With significant growth in Muslim population around Campbelltown, Camden Valley area we are concerned about the looming shortage in burial spaces. For us Varroville Cemetery is the solution and believe that the Catholic Metropolitan Cemetery Trust is best placed to deliver the much needed burial spaces.”