Rocky funeral business calls for tougher regulations
OWNER of Fitzroy Funeral Homes, Colin Dean, has called for tougher regulations to be introduced in the industry.
Mr Dean made his call on Thursday after police confirmed they were investigating a complaint into another Rockhampton funeral operation.
The family of Janice Cecilia Valigura claimed Harts Family Funerals swapped her body from a $1700 coffin into a $70 pine box ahead of her cremation earlier this week.
Mr Dean is a member of the Independent Funeral Directors Association, and talked The Morning Bulletin through the practices and processes his business follows.
He explained in order to be a part of an association, a funeral home needed to: adhere to the minimum standards of an office; have a coffin display room; a transfer vehicle/hearse and a mortuary; and a "clean environment".
Mr Dean urged customers to seek funeral homes which were members of reputable associations, and said he would like to see more stringent regulations enforced and regular inspections by the relevant authority.
"There's a lot of funeral directors out there that do the right thing," Colin said.
"[But] there's no-one telling us 'that's the right way to do it'.
"We just do what we believe is ethical...I would love to see regulations."
His comments were echoed by the Queensland Funeral Directors Association which said it had long called on the Queensland Government to introduce licensing.
"The QFDA has for years been corresponding with Government (in office) and getting nowhere," the association's president Anton Brown said.
Mr Brown said licensing measures would give the Government greater control over regulating the industry.
"In light of what has allegedly happened I would advise all families to consider a funeral director who is a member of a reputable association in future."
On Thursday Police said their investigation was underway and expected to take several weeks.
Mr Dean said all coffins were lined with plastic for hygiene, and as a safe-guard against leaks, should they happen, in transit.
"When somebody gets into a coffin... we dress them, we put them in the coffin and once they're in that coffin they stay there," he said.
"If a family member enquires for jewellery back, we give it back before, during or after the funeral... we also get them to sign a piece of paper to say we returned it."
The coffins are then sealed shut, not with glue, but with screws and plates.
He said silk trimming was then laid over the inside of the coffin, and across the body, as a sign of respect.
Mr Dean and his wife Michelle said families who used their service get "what's paid for", and that they always gave the coffin handles back after cremation as a memento of their loved one.
He said his business serviced between 200 and 250 funerals a year.
"We didn't get into the funeral business for the money, but because we had a lot of loss in our families," Mrs Dean said.
"We had lost seven family members in seven years. We have been there and we know it."
Mr Dean said his Rockhampton funeral home operated with an "open door policy" and he had "nothing to hide".
"You can be with us when we dress them, you can sit in the front seat of the car and go to the crematorium," Mr Dean said.
When the couple started the business at Hervey Bay, he said they were met with far more stringent processes than what they have experienced here in Rockhampton.
He said while they used to have yearly health inspections, they hadn't had one in the eight years since they opened in Rockhampton.
Often Mr Dean said he referred customers to more affordable options.
A spokesperson for the Office of Fair Trading commented on the matter.
"The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is aware of a media report of a potential fair trading matter in Rockhampton," the spokesperson said.
"The OFT has not received a complaint regarding this matter and understands the Queensland Police Service is investigating.
"Funeral providers, like all Queensland businesses, have an obligation to adhere to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
"Under the ACL, consumers have a right to receive what they pay for. It is also an offence for a business to make a false or misleading representation.
"The OFT and funeral industry representatives developed a voluntary code of conduct for the funeral industry in September 2013.
"This code aims to promote best practice in the industry."
*After an investigation, police cleared Mr Hart and Harts Family Funerals of legal wrongdoing and said they would not be laying charges.