Doreen Awabdy poses for a photograph at the Mt Gravatt Cemetery in 2018. She was unhappy with the maintenance at the cemetery (AAP Image/Renae Droop)
Doreen Awabdy poses for a photograph at the Mt Gravatt Cemetery in 2018. She was unhappy with the maintenance at the cemetery (AAP Image/Renae Droop)

Mourners threatened with fines for watering graves

FAMILIES of people buried at a Brisbane cemetery have labelled notices threatening fines for overwatering as "hypocrisy" nearly a year after the council was slammed for flooding graves.
Doreen Awabdy said the signs were posted on "very specific taps" in a "very select" region of Mt Gravatt Cemetery, where her father and brother are buried, earlier this month.

Under the headline "Please conserve water" the notices stated "20 mins is enough time to water one grave, it is unacceptable to leave sprinklers on all day. Fines may apply".

It comes less than a year after Brisbane City Council said it would not flood graves as it reviewed burial policies after families condemned the practice as disrespectful and traumatic.

The practice, which is also called spiking, involves a hose being inserted into a grave and left for hours or even overnight to prevent soil subsidence.

Water notice with Brisbane City Council logo at Mt Gravatt Cemetery. Picture: Supplied.
Water notice with Brisbane City Council logo at Mt Gravatt Cemetery. Picture: Supplied.

Ms Awabdy was furious when she saw the signs at the cemetery.

"Against the backdrop of poor upkeep and neglect, there's also the hypocrisy of City Council and the management at the cemetery who think it's justifiable to leave a hose in overnight and over the weekend to collapse a grave after a funeral," she said.

"Yet they're poking fingers at families who are dealing with their grief by trying to respect those who have passed, by keeping their grave sites in order, which is the responsibility of the Brisbane City Council.

"The most confronting thing about it was the assumption that people were misusing the water at a cemetery where they're trying to make the place a little more habitable, given the history of poor upkeep and neglect by the Brisbane City Council."

Doreen Awabdy poses for a photograph at the Mt Gravatt Cemetery in 2018. She was unhappy with the maintenance at the cemetery (AAP Image/Renae Droop)
Doreen Awabdy poses for a photograph at the Mt Gravatt Cemetery in 2018. She was unhappy with the maintenance at the cemetery (AAP Image/Renae Droop)

Joan Mackie's stepfather and mother are buried at the cemetery, as is her husband's first wife, and she said the standard of maintenance was "appalling".

"It is upsetting and distressing to see that, and we try to maintain it to make it look nice and then we can't," she said.

"They (the council) don't really care about the grave sites, and then they're putting restrictions on us, when we're trying to do their job of trying to improve and maintain it."

A hose going into a grave at Mt Gravat Cemetery.
A hose going into a grave at Mt Gravat Cemetery.

Brisbane Community Arts and Lifestyle chair Peter Matic said the notices were not official council signs and insisted no fines were being issued in relation to water use in cemeteries.

"It (the sign) was erected by a staff member of their own volition and the sign was taken down when it was noticed by other staff," he said.

"The staff member has been concerned that sprinklers were being left on during a drought and thought it was important to conserve water."

He said unattended sprinklers have regularly been left running in the cemetery grounds.

Cr Matic said during the most recent severe drought the issue arose frequently and prompted some taps to be removed in some cemeteries.

"We are very conscious of balancing family sensitivities with responsible water management as the body responsible for the city's drinking water supply," he said.

"It is extremely important to Council that families can contact us and discuss any issues they may have in relation to management of cemeteries."



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