VANDALS have destroyed headstones and scattered ashes at Nowra Cemetery twice in the past three months.
According to the Shoalhaven Bereavement Services manager Pierre Duparte vandalism is common in the cemetery because of the low level of visitation.
Mr Duparte said in his 18 years in the job he had recorded more than 10 acts of ashes vandalism in the cemetery.
Last week the niche wall was vandalised, with two lots of cremation ashes scattered. Prior to that almost five commemorative ashes were damaged.
Mr Duparte said Shoalhaven City Council became aware of the most recent attack only when a visiting family discovered the desecration and contacted council.
“We’ve had immense problems with the wall and great difficulty contacting relations when something happens, mainly because the wall is so old, it’s difficult to track people down,” he said.
“We would really appreciate a phone call from any relatives of those commemorated in the wall, so we have a way of contacting them when something happens, and I say when not if.”
Council and the police say they are are doing everything they can to stop the vandalism, but with limited resources it’s a difficult task.
Shoalhaven Bereavement Services inspects the cemetery once a fortnight in summer but only key areas are checked for damage.
“This has been a big problem and the ashes are an immense concern for us,” he said.
“I suspect the reason why people are doing this is because they are searching for valuables.
“We know from time to time people have buried valuables with the ashes but it’s certainly not common any more and funeral directors always urge people not to.
“Police have tried to assist us the best they can but it’s very difficult to catch anyone.
“The cemetery isn’t secure in any way, except a fence which is continually being stolen.
“The solution to deal with these issues is prohibitively expensive and I suspect the city doesn’t have the resources.”
Council is hoping visitation will increase in Nowra, with a number of plots now available and a returned section for the military.
The Crown Cemetery Advisory Committee has also been established and is working with the NSW Land and Property Management Authority on sustaining cemeteries in the state.
“I’m certain we will see a few positive things come out of that process over the next four or five years,” Mr Duparte said.
“They will be looking at various options to revitalise those older cemeteries but I think the big issue is the lack of resources when a cemetery fills up.”
Previously Shoalhaven City Council voted down an option to securely fence off the cemetery and only open it to the public at certain times.
Shoalhaven Bereavement Services is encouraging the public to contact its office on 4421 6355 or on the emergency after hours number 4421 3100 to report any vandalism in the Nowra cemetery.