Funeral Industry News

Death in Suburbs – Big Business

October 12, 2009

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Death in Suburbs – Big Business

Wedged between mechanic workshops and other businesses at a Logan industrial estate, one such private mortuary ? run from an allotment in a large tin shed ? gives little away about its real purpose.

There are no signs, just a display board at the front of the shed advertising neighbouring businesses.

But unbeknown to passers-by, within the small shed are bodies waiting to be laid to rest.

Business is busy, with operator Dennis Martin, owner of DCD Transfer Service, pulling in several times a day last week in his Ford Falcon station wagon with new arrivals.

It is an unseen side to Queensland’s funeral industry and one which some small, new, home-based funeral directors say is a crucial link in giving residents the option of budget funerals.

But it has left others in the funeral industry with larger mortuaries attached to funeral parlours unhappy.

One funeral director, who asked not to be named, said the shed was a “holding pen”.

He said the absence of government regulation of privately run mortuaries had created an uneven playing field, where some funeral directors were paying $30,000 or more for purpose-built facilities while other business owners were able to store corpses in refrigerated sheds.

He said his business was “a professional mortuary, not a shed in an industrial estate”.

“If families knew their loved ones were going to that shed they would spew.”

One neighbouring business owner approached by The Sunday Mail said he was aware of the purpose of the shed, with Mr Martin having asked him to phone should a problem occur, such as a power failure.

No town-planning permit was needed from Logan City Council to run the business, with a spokesman saying the use of the building was self-assessable.

Mr Martin declined to be interviewed last week, saying he was only a transfer company, not a funeral director.

But the owner of one of several new home-based funeral companies to open in Queensland, Krystine Hastings, said small mortuaries such as the Logan operation were vital for businesses such as hers. She said there was a lack of mortuaries in southeast Queensland, despite some firms sharing facilities.

The Australian Funeral Directors Association Queensland divisional president Rowan Steer has called for regulation, including of the transportation and storage of the deceased, citing Queensland’s climate as a factor.

He warned about the rise of home-based funeral directors armed with just a “briefcase and mobile phone”.

But Ms Hastings said calls by funeral directors for industry regulation were just “scaremongering”.