Difficult conversations and topics
Creating a respectful and sensitive engagement program to talk about death and end of life services
- Northern Cemeteries
- Not-for-profit, funeral services, cemeteries and crematoria
- Stakeholder and community engagement, research, communication
- April to July 2020
- Kelly Lofberg - Phone 02 4965 4317
About Northern Cemeteries
Northern Cemeteries is a multi-site organisation charged with managing the burial and cremation needs for communities around the northern suburbs of Sydney and Sandgate in Newcastle. Each location has its own distinct personality catering to diverse communities with individual cultural, traditional and religious needs.
Engaging with stakeholders and the community
Northern Cemeteries’ vision is to ensure that everyone in the community has access to respected dignified services and memorialisation. Gathering feedback from the community and stakeholders is an important part of meeting that vision. It is also a requirement when managing NSW Crown Land, which the cemeteries are located on.
The research and consultation was focused on two cemeteries, Macquarie Park and Field of Mars. It was an opportunity to explore the future needs of the community for end of life services and care, including different burial methods and internment, as well as gather feedback on what they do well and areas for improvement.
Our project was complex and sensitive
Finding the right approach was key
Like other organisations, Northern Cemeteries needs to plan for the future and find ways to tackle challenges. They also need to make sure they continue to provide equitable access to end of life services and memorialisation. Land for cemeteries is very scarce and people expect different options for burial, cremation services and memorialisation, including natural burial options.
We asked about cemeteries and end of life services
Using a range of engagement tools
We developed and implemented a research and engagement program to explore ways to support Northern Cemeteries’ five-year Strategic Plan. This included:
- Developing an approach that included both face-to-face and online engagement
- Identifying stakeholders who might participate and anticipating their needs to start a conversation in a way that was sensitive and respectful
- Using a range of communication channels to let people know about the project and give them options to participate.
The results will help inform future planning for Macquarie Park and Field of Mars cemeteries, including providing the best possible services to meet the future needs of the community for end of life services and care.
Overcoming the challenges of COVID-19
During the consultation planning phase, COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, eliminating face-to-face engagement. We quickly changed our approach and implemented a range online tools to effectively engage the community, including using Social Pinpoint, an online survey, online focus groups, emails, phone calls and social media.
We also had to make sure other methods were made available for people who did not have access to the internet. Posters were installed at both cemeteries to encourage people to complete a phone survey or just give us a call for a chat. Flyers were distributed to stakeholders too.
How did we do
Given that our engagement was about a sensitive topic and we couldn't do any face-to-face engagement, we were thrilled with the feedback and results!
- Over 5400 electronic newsletters sent
- 366 people responded to the survey
- Over 800 people engaged on social media
- Over 760 people visited the engagement website.
The feedback has been incorporated into a detailed research and outcomes report. We also developed a communication and engagement strategy to ensure an ongoing conversation with stakeholders, and closed the loop with stakeholders, sending out the results with an update on how the information was used.