Non-traditional funerals bring compassion and change

Sam Aulton’s husband and young daughters weren’t ready to say goodbye when the 46-year-old died in hospital last December of complications associated with breast cancer.
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Instead of an undertaker ushering Ms Aulton’s corpse away to a funeral home where strangers would have prepared her for cremation and the standard 45-minute chapel service three to five days later, the East Maitland family brought the rock-singer, mother and campaigner home.

“We set up a room for her with candles, picked out favourite clothes, the kids [Maggie, 12, and Ruby, 9] did her hair and her nails, and it was just so beautiful,” said her partner Brent Fairns.

Friends visited and said goodbyes. “We were all in shock at the hospital, and [being at home] was such a beautiful way to process loss,” he said.

Mr Fairns didn’t know that caring for the dead at home until cremation or burial was possible until he spoke to funeral celebrant, Lola Rus-Hartland. She worked with a new online company, Picaluna, to create a funeral that suited the Fairns/Aulton family and its finances.

About 160,000 ns die every year, generating $1.1 billion a year for the funeral industry, including cremations and burials. About 37 per cent of the market is dominated by Invocare, which owns a range of funeral homes, crematoria and coffin businesses.

Now the industry is seeing a range of new players providing greater choice, more transparent pricing, more affordable options, and the promise of doing good for others.

When 89-year-old Petronila Benites died in Sydney on Christmas Day 2016, her daughter Luz Huamanyaure used a new service by the Salvation Army after another company had made her feel stressed when she was sad and grieving.

“He was pushing us, and just wanted business,” she said. The Salvos funeral was beautiful, she said, more affordable than those of her friends’ parents and the extended Peruvian family got what they wanted, a traditional service and the white coffin her mother had wanted.

Research by Greg Inglis, the managing director of Picaluna, of 89 people who had organised funerals with a range of providers found everyone felt exploited.

“They are looking for compassion and clarity, and I don’t think the current industry is providing either,” Mr Inglis said.

Last year Picaluna and Salvos Funerals did a pilot to test the affordable funeral market. They’ve since launched separate businesses. The Salvos promise affordable funerals – including a no-attendance, no-service cremation for $2180 – with profits reinvested back into the charity. Picaluna donates a percentage of its profits to charity, and runs an online portal – with funeral celebrants as guides – so bereaved families can pick and choose what they want.

What a family spends on a funeral is a personal decision, but Mr Inglis said they often wanted something that was affordable, with no upsells or hidden costs.

He claimed most funeral directors will sell an average coffin for $2000, although it only cost them $350, adding that he didn’t see “what value they are adding to make that profit”.

In Port Kembla, the not-for-profit company Tender Funerals has also tapped a real need, organising around 50 funerals since it launched in September. Founder Jennifer Briscoe-Hough said families came to her not because it was affordable, but because it was fair.

“We’re interested in unselling them,” she said. They were encouraged to do their own flowers or help in preparing the body. “I would say “I don’t think your mum would want a lot of money spent on her coffin,” Ms Briscoe-Hough said.

Salvos Funerals chief Malcolm Pitteridge said the motivation for the new affordable funeral service wasn’t to disrupt the market: “But it just so happens there is a real opportunity to serve people really well, and connect and guide them through.”

In contrast, a new online company EziFunerals – which has 600 independent funeral directors who will bid for business – is clear about its goal of challenging Invocare.

“This is a disruptive innovation. This is going to touch a cultural chord. It aggregates the decision making and it gives people a sense of empowerment,” founder Peter Erceg said.

A senior analyst with IbisWorld Andrew Ledovskikh said the concentration of the market meant there was potential for online platforms that provided price comparisons and online quotes had the potential to shock the industry.

“When you have only one major player, you get a lot of complaints from consumers about price gouging and lack of transparency. That sentiment makes larger industry players more vulnerable to competitors that provides more transparency and offers more personalised service,” he said.

Brent Fairns said he wanted others to know there were other options, although he realised his family’s farewell was not for everyone.

“When you spend so long with someone, to have them whisked away in a very clinical and soulless environment, it is just not meaningful. I don’t how our culture evolved this way,” he said.

“Somewhere in the public health system there needs to be facilitator, like prenatal classes, to inform us of all that is possible. And to do it at the other end of life and be guided by what [the family and the deceased] want to do.”

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Candidates front up to become NSW Police Commissioner

Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn, NSW Police Force and Acting Deputy CommissionerNeil Gauhan, n Federal Police, joing press conference regarding the 5 arrested in joint counter-terror raids overnight. Photographed Wednesday 7tn October 2015. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 151007 Photo: James BrickwoodAfter years of speculation, jostling, at some points infighting, and a two-month application process that culminated with interviews on Friday, an announcement on who will replace Andrew Scipione as NSW Police Commissioner is due within the fortnight.
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Mr Scipione’s long-serving deputy commissioner, Catherine Burn, is the most senior serving officer to be interviewed for the role but her involvement in a long-running bugging scandal may have cruelled her chances.

Ms Burn has rejected adverse findings made against her by the Ombudsman over the scandal.

Former deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas may be the most highly credentialled applicant to ever apply to be NSW commissioner but again, the Ombudsman’s bugging report, and the fact he has left the force on medical grounds may work against him.

Dave Hudson, the other deputy commissioner, was interviewed but is not believed to be among the frontrunners at this stage

Instead, the speculation is that the NSW government may look for generational change and appoint from the assistant commissioner rank or outside the force.

Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller had been touted as the frontrunner and, as one of the younger candidates, the current Sydney Metropolitan Region chief would signal that generational change.

His fellow Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy has a reputation as one of the force’s brightest minds.

Currently the Northern Region Commander, Mr Loy has a lower profile than many of the other candidates.

Geoff McKechnie, another Assistant Commissioner, is also in the running and is fancied to fill one of the vacant deputy positions.

Outside NSW Police, the n Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg was interviewed for the commissioner’s job on Friday.

If successful, it would be the first time since Peter Ryan’s controversial appointment in 1996 that the NSW force has looked outside its own ranks.

Mr Quaedvlieg’s appointment would also most likely be met with opposition from the NSW Police Association, which wants Mr Scipione’s replacement to come from within the force.

His appointment would most likely bring about changes in the senior ranks with Mr Quaedvlieg believed to have outlined his plans for modest reform within the force during discussions with the government.

The state government has said Mr Scipione’s replacement is expected to be known when he finishes in the role on April 2.

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Minister calls NSW prison statistics ‘a tragedy’

It’s a record, but not one to be proud of: one in four prisoners in NSW jails are Indigenous, a statistic that has risen by 35 per cent since the Coalition government came to power in 2011.
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The Minister for Corrections David Elliott conceded “it is a tragedy”. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders represented 24 per cent of the prison population in October 2016, up from 22 per cent in March 2011.

That means the NSW justice system is imprisoning Indigenous people at 11.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous people.

Legal advocates say a mix of tougher bail laws, racial prejudice, better detection methods and under investment in diversionary programs is contributing to the problem, while the Greens blame the major parties’ “law and order auctions” as politicians compete to look tough on crime.

“We have postcode justice,” said Sarah Hopkins, Managing Solicitor of justice projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service.

“Diversionary options are not available across all of NSW, particularly in regional and remote areas, so courts are unable to divert people from prison. This does impact disproportionately on Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people who live in these communities.”

She points to the rise in convictions of indigenous people for relatively minor offences.

Investment in early intervention and therapeutic treatment programs have been shown to have a far greater impact on reducing recidivism than short prison sentences, she said.

It is also cheaper: a recent study by Deloitte Access Economics found that $111,000 can be saved per year per offender by diverting non-violent Indigenous offenders with drug problems into treatment instead of prison.

In a presentation to the NSW Law Society last week, Dr Don Weatherburn at the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research said that the biggest driver of growth in Indigenous convictions over the five years from 2011-2016 were not violent crimes but regulatory driving offences followed by breach of community-based orders and driver licence offences.

There has been a steady rise in the number of court appearances by Indigenous people since January 2011 (from about 1000 a month to over 1600); and in the percentage of Indigenous defendants refused bail (from 15 per cent to 18 per cent) in the same time period, he said.

The overall prison population has been steadily climbing over the past decade (13 per cent growth between 2006 and 2016) but the Indigenous prison population has grown faster (31 per cent growth).

Dr Weatherburn said that over 95 per cent of Indigenous prisoners are serving sentences of less than two years.

But BOCSAR could not yet say what was driving the increase.

Minister Elliott said “All incarceration has gone up because we toughened the Bail Act up, and we make no apology for the fact that we have the toughest bail laws in the country.”

However, he said, the unrepresentatively high Indigenous incarceration rates are “unacceptable”.

“Which is why I’ve spent $237 million on reducing reoffending. We want to make sure that everyone who goes into jail who the court has said will be released gets every opportunity to be rehabilitated.”

The government is spending $3.8 billion on building 7000 new prison beds across NSW over the next four years to accommodate the growing prison population.

Upper house MP David Shoebridge from the Greens said police discretionary powers such as consorting laws, move on powers and public order offences are disproportionately applied to Indigenous people.

“When you increase discretionary police power and make backward changes to bail laws then you are basically deciding to jail more Aboriginal people, and that’s been the Coalition’s track record over the last six years,” he said.

The Shadow Attorney-General, Paul Lynch, said, “Aboriginal incarceration rates are alarmingly high. The situation is now worse than it was at the time of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.”

Mr Lynch said the government was not doing enough in justice reinvestment (redirecting money spent on prisons to preventative community programs) and said Labor had committed to do more if elected.

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Melbourne thrash Fremantle with record AFLW score to keep grand final hopes alive

AFLW Round 7: Melbourne v Fremantle Daisy Pearce of the Demons in action during the 2017 AFLW Round 7 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Fremantle Dockers.
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Emma Humphries of the Demons (left) celebrates with Brooke Patterson of the Demons.

Daisy Pearce of the Demons (centre) celebrates with Shelley Scott (left) and Laura Duryea of the Demons during the 2017 AFLW Round 7 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Fremantle Dockers.

Daisy Pearce of the Demons shakes hands with Ebony Antonio of the Dockers.

Alyssa Mifsud of the Demons is tackled by Stephanie Cain of the Dockers.

Shelley Scott of the Demons (left) celebrates with Daisy Pearce of the Demons.

Daisy Pearce of the Demons is tackled by Stacey Barr of the Dockers.

Gemma Houghton of the Dockers kicks the ball ahead of Brooke Patterson of the Demons.

Amy Lavell of the Dockers in action ahead of Jasmine Grierson of the Demons.

Richelle Cranston of the Demons in action.

Daisy Pearce of the Demons is tackled by Stacey Barr of the Dockers.

Melissa Hickey of the Demons is tackled.

Kirby Bentley of the Dockers in action.

Emma Humphries of the Demons celebrates a goal with Aliesha Newman (left) and Deanna Berry of the Demons.

Aliesha Newman of the Demons (left) celebrates a goal with Madeleine Boyd of the Demons.

Ainslie Kemp of the Demons is tackled by Tarnica Golisano of the Dockers.

Daisy Pearce of the Demons in action.

Ebony Antonio of the Dockers celebrates a goal.

TweetFacebookWhy Melbourne won the gameIt was a pretty clinical team performance. Sure, there were stand-out games from Pearce, Elise O’Dea and Lily Mithen, but the Demons had contributors across the board and across the four quarters. Richelle Cranston, Karen Paxman and Shelly Scott were others to shine.

With eight goals to their credit by half-time and just two majors from the visitors, the match was done and dusted. They were solid and organised in defence.

Melbourne took full advantage of their numerous entries in the forward 50 but most times they had set up their attacks from the defensive half. In contrast, Freoat times looked disorganised in attack.

The play of the gameIt was a wonderful team goal for the Demons at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter that ultimately gave them the highest score by any team this season.

Starting with Pearce in the back pocket, the Dees were nearly blemish-free as they carried the ball forward, eventually finishing in the hands of Paxman who slotted truly. At this point Melbourne had a deadly accurate 10.0 and the highest winning margin was also well within their sights.

Therewere many highlights but this coast-to-coast effort is one worth tracking down on the replay.

The moment that people will talk aboutIt’s a little unfair to single out a Fremantle lapse, but it did reflect the fortunes of the two teams on the day.

The Demons were dominating possession and the scoreboard midway through the second quarter when the Dockers made a rare foray forward. They desperately needed their third goal to somehow get back into the match.

Melbourne was penalised for a deliberate out of bounds, giving Freo’s Kirby Bentley a free kick deep in the left forward pocket. She did the right and creative thing by playing on but then tried too much. After evading her opponent, she should have snapped truly but instead dished off a handball. Opportunity missed.

What the win / loss means for the teamsIt was win number five for the Demons, including their fourth in their final five games, ensuring a positive finish to their regular season. Whether or not they somehow sneak into the season decider, they can look ahead with positivity to next year.

Fremantle’s season was already cooked, of course, but they finish with one win, five losses and one draw.

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Melbourne City put Newcastle Jets to the sword

A-League: Melbourne v Newcastle A City fan plays with a soccer ball before the round 23 A-League match between Melbourne City FC and the Newcastle Jets.
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Jets Keeper Jack Duncan dives for a save during the round 23 A-League match between Melbourne City FC and the Newcastle Jets.

A general view is seen as teams huddle during the round 23 A-League match between Melbourne City FC and the Newcastle Jets.

Tim Cahill of the City heads the ball over John Koutroutmbis of the Jets for a goal.

Bruno Fornaroli of the City kicks the ball for a goal.

Tim Cahill of the City heads the ball against Nigel Boogaard of the Jets.

Bruno Fornaroli of the City kicks the ball at goal against Jets Keeper Jack Duncan.

Bruno Fornaroli of the City kicks the ball for a goal.

Anthony Caceras the City (L) and Alexsandr Kokko of the Jets compete for the ball with Jets Keeper Jack Duncan.

Bruno Fornaroli of the City kicks the ball at goal against Jets Keeper Jack Duncan.

Nigel Boogaard of the Jets receives a yellow card.

Andrew Hoole of the Jets (L) compete for the ball against Josh Rose of the City.

Nicholas Colazo of Melbourne City runs with the ball.

Ruon Tongyik of the City runs with the ball.

Jets Keeper Jack Duncan dives for a save from a kick from Bruno Fornaroli of the City.

Bruno Fornaroli of the City (C) celebrates a goal with Nicholas Fitzgerald (L) and Nicholas Colazo.

Anthony Caceras the City (L) and Nigel Boogaard of the Jets compete for the ball.

Ivan Franjic of the City is helped up by Andrew Nabbout of the Jets after a contest.

Nicholas Fitzgerald of the City (C) celebrates a goal with Anthony Caceras the City (L) Bruno Fornaroli and Nicholas Colazo (R) during the round 23 A-League match between Melbourne City FC.

Andrew Hoole of the Jets is spoken to by the referee.

TweetFacebook A-League: Melbourne v NewcastleHighlights of the round 23 A-League match between Melbourne City FC and the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on March 18, 2017 in Melbourne, . Photos: Michael Dodge/Getty ImagesA first-half Tim Cahill header and three second-half goals, one to substitute Nick Fitzgerald and two to captain Bruno Fornaroli, eased Melbourne City to a comfortable 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

The victory –only their second back-to-back win of the season –moves City into a clear third spot on the A-League ladder, three points ahead of Brisbane Roar, who travel to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.

Michael Valkanis team is keen to try and shore up third place as it will give them a first home final against the team that eventually finishes sixth.

Newcastle, desperate for points to stay in the finals race themselves, began the game in lively enough fashion and had the first two chances of the game before City were able to settle into a rhythm.

Wayne Brown, once of Fulham and Bristol Rovers but now a key player for the Hunter Valley side, dispossessed Neil Kilkenny in the third minute and, spotting Thomas Sorensen off his line, tried his luck with an audacious long range lob, which the Danish goalkeeper managed to get back in time to collect.

There was a far better opportunity a couple of minutes later when a long ball down the flank fell to Jets winger Andrew Nabbout, who bore down on goal.

The ex-Melbourne Victory forward has been something of a revelation with Newcastleand has scored eight times this season, but with just Sorensen to beatand Osama Malik thundering in for a late challenge, Nabbout fired wide.

That was really as good as it got for the visitors as City regained their composure and began to stamp their authority on the game.

City captain Fornaroli is not just a goalscorer, but he is also particularly adept at drawing free kicks for fouls in dangerous areas.

When Andrew Hoole was penalised for an illegal challenge on him early in the game the statistic flashed up on screen to hammer the point home, revealing that Fornaroli had been fouled 86 times so far this campaign with, ironically, Hoole the next most sinned against, with 63 fouls against him.

Fornarolidid not punish Newcastle then, but he did shortly after when he was involved, along with Nicolas Colazo, in the move to set up Cahill’s opening goal.

The ball was played back to Josh Rose, the left-back’s cross being met perfectly by the veteran Socceroo, who beat defender John Koutroumbis and headed wide of Jack Duncan to put the hosts in front.

City then enjoyed a period of domination where they retained possession, recycled the ball well and huffed and puffed but could not find a way to break down the visitors a second time.

Colazo hit the side netting after being set up by Ivan Franjic, then Newcastle captain Nigel Boogarde, one of the league’s serial offenders, picked up a card for tangling with, yes, you guessed it, City’s Uruguayan skipper, who stepped up to direct the resultant free kick just wide.

Fornaroli made space for himself just after the restart but his shot was easily held by Duncan. Ben Kantarovski’s loose clearance was then picked up by Kilkenny, who found Colazo only for Duncan to save his shot.

At the other end Morten Nordstrand, on as a replacement for Aleksandr Kokko, was played through but perhaps lacking game time his touch let him down.

Cahill made way for Nick Fitzgerald just before the our mark and the substitute almost made a speedy impact, jinking in space on the right before firing in a shot, which Duncan saved.

Fitzgerald’s next intervention was even more telling. He drove into the Jets penalty area before back heeling the ball to Anthony Caceres on the edge of the box. Fitzgerald kept running and took Caceres’ delightful chip over the defence first time to lob over Duncan and into the back of the net for City’s second goal.

Shortly afterwards Fornaroli put the game to bed from the penalty spot after another substitute, Bruce Kamau, had been brought down by Daniel Mullen.

He then grabbed a second when the Jets failed to clear Nick Fitzgerald’s cross, lashing home a loose ball from close range.

City now face two tough road trips, away to Western Sydney and Sydney in the next fortnight, but confidence will be high after this win.

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