A grieving family claims its father’s interred ashes were exhumed without approval after a burial bungle at a South Australian cemetery.
- A family calls for answers after a father’s ashes were exhumed after 18 months
- Attorney-General’s Department reviews incident after the burial mistake
- The family says its father’s legacy is tarnished by the council’s actions
Mount Gambier teacher Penne Paltridge said she was bewildered and angry her father’s ashes were “dug up” after another person was mistakenly buried in the same plot.
“My dad’s grave has been desecrated,” an emotional Ms Paltridge said.
Ms Paltridge had to drive 130 kilometres to the small, rural Lucindale Cemetery to pick up her father’s ashes after the error, which she stores at her Mount Gambier home.
South Australia’s Attorney-General’s Department has confirmed it is reviewing the matter, including whether Naracoorte Lucindale Council “acted within its authority”.
“It is not where I want him to be. We will now bury him in Mount Gambier in a private ceremony.”
Ms Paltridge has called on council, which operates the cemetery, to explain why the incident occurred and if they had the authority to exhume her father’s ashes.
“What we now want is for council to acknowledge it was the wrong thing to do,” she said.
The family questioned whether council had permission from the Attorney-General’s Department.
“We understand the Attorney-General has the last say,” Ms Paltridge said.
Wanting father ‘left in peace’
William ‘Bill’ Paltridge died in April last year and was cremated in Mount Gambier.
“In September this year, the phone rang, and it was a lady from the Naracoorte Lucindale Council who said she was ‘very sorry, but they buried someone in your dad’s plot’.
“I told her they needed to take the other person out of the plot. That’s when this all started.
“We wanted to leave our dad in peace. He … had been there for 18 months.”
Expressing empathy for the other family involved, Ms Paltridge said her father was a much loved and well-known farmer in the Lucindale-Naracoorte district, and she did not want his legacy marred by this incident.
“We did not care whether he was cremated or buried in a coffin. We had a farewell ceremony at the gravesite,” she said.
She explained the family was struggling to move on after losing Mr Paltridge.
“Bill was a beautiful man. He loved his golf and his family, he just loved helping people. He deserved better than this,” Ms Paltridge said.
Daughter says she never gave permission
Mr Paltridge, who is in the process of having cemetery plaque made, said the family could not even place flowers on their father’s grave for his birthday.
“When we went there it was awful. Not long after they buried the other person, there was a little plaque stuck in the ground with that person’s name on there,” Ms Paltridge said.
“We paid for the internment and the plot. This is just a big, big mess.
Ms Paltridge said this was despite the family having the lease for the plot for 75 years.
“I don’t know who is to blame. We do not want anybody to lose their job, we just want to know how this happened,” she said.
Department begins review
In a statement, the Attorney-General’s Department said it was “aware of concerns” about the matter.
“We can confirm no application has been made to the Attorney-General, and the matter is currently under review to determine whether the council was acting within its authority,” a department spokesperson said.
“As that process is currently underway we cannot provide further information at this time.”
Naracoorte Lucindale Council chief executive officer Trevor Smart declined to comment.