Amanda Edwards speech to council on cemetery policy moves chamber and supporters

A young Griffith mother delivered a moving speech to Griffith City Council – likening council’s policy of removing ornaments from graves to the criminal act of disturbing a funeral procession. 

Amanda Edwards (nee Favell) addressed council at their Tuesday ordinary meeting on behalf of the Favell family. 

Her speech left the chamber speechless, with many congratulating her afterwards for summing up community sentiment so eloquently. 

Ms Edwards, who recently laid her mother to rest in Griffith Cemetery, said graves had been “vandalised in the bluntest form”, calling it a “a criminal act of desecrating a spiritual site”. 

We have reprinted her full speech here:

I could stand here as a ratepayer asking council to find a better use for our tax dollars than bullying grieving families.

I could stand here as a third generation Griffith local from a proud hardworking family.

I could stand here as a grieving daughter, that not more than 10 weeks ago I laid my precious mum to rest in Griffith Lawn Cemetery after a battle with cancer.

But I am actually standing here as a young mother, to a 10-month-old baby girl, hoping that I am not raising her in a community that has a council so set in tunnel vision mode that they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

It is NSW state law to not intentionally cut into or through a funeral procession (79–1)

A driver must not interfere with, or interrupt, the free passage along any length of road of:

(a)  any funeral cortege or authorised procession, or

(b)  any vehicle or person apparently forming part of the cortege or procession

This is regarded as intent of disrespect and intimidation and carries the same fine as running a red light.

NSW law sees and respects death and all that comes with it. Yet a local government is making a mockery of that simple phrase

“Intent of disrespect and intimidation”: the act that have bought us here as a community in outrage is just that.

An act of intent of disrespect and intimidation.

I'd like to ask this council group to walk along and read the plaques that are in place on the graves. Look at the words used.

Loving memory - Precious - Deeply Missed - Forever Loved.

NSW law sees and respects death and all that comes with it. Yet a local government is making a mockery of that simple phrase

Amanda Edwards

We don't place words like these on plaques to take up space, they are expressions of love, respect and heartbreak.

If you cannot read these plaques and in your heart and soul feel moved and touched by families lasting words, then perhaps you are in the wrong job.

Ornaments, extra vases, decorations  are a part of our grieving process.We place them on graves as gifts for those we love

The cemetery is our holy place. A place where we connect with our loved one when they can no longer be with us. No matter your religion, culture, race, creed or preference. We all will suffer a loss and need to show empathy and unite together.

Many families had followed the guidelines of the cemetery and the grave that they visit has now been vandalised in the bluntest form.

The criminal act of desecrating a spiritual site is not only disgusting juvenile behaviour, it shows disrespect for others and I question where your moral compass is set.

I also question the abuse of power of whoever decided that it was ok to attack a cemetery.

Once again Griffith is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with this pathetic behaviour reaching national radio.

 Look at the options and choose the approach of uniting as a community with respect to families and their right to grieve.

Let's create together a beautiful unique area that sets us apart from other cities and embrace the colour, lights and gifts that we put on our family members graves.

Rather than attacking the resting place of the passed, you look at problems that will actually harm the public, like the broken brickwork on the Wakeden st entrance, and the rusty metal around it.

I hope my five minutes have not fallen on deaf ears. I hope I have spoken for those who cannot find the words or have no voice. But most i hope i have conducted myself with grace, dignity and respect for everyone here and the ones that can't be, which is more than I can say for the recent acts and behaviour of the Griffith Council.

Ms Edwards told The Area News “I am a very proud daughter and granddaughter to a strong family. My grandfather fought for our country and raised 8 children in this town.”

“There is a street named after him, and my father and late mother are the salt of the earth and for them, my sister, my daughter and my whole family I wanted to speak to the council as a mother with a voice.” 

Carmel La Rocca, who organised a community group to present recommendations to council on cemetery policy, thanked Ms Edwards for capturing community sentiment so well. 

Ms La Rocca addressed council shortly before Ms Edwards, and also had some very strong words. 

“The community of Griffith condemns council for their unsympathetic actions and hopes that Griffith City Council aims to be socially responsible and show empathy into the future,” she said. 

She recommended indiscriminate removal of flower pots and ornaments be reconsidered and cease.

Lina Soncin, who had flowers removed from her son and husband’s graves, said council could have fixed the issue when it first arose in 2005. She said it came up again in 2009, and again now, and it should never have got to this stage. 

After hearing from her and other families members hurt by grave ornament removals, council agreed to review their policy and stop removing items while the review was taking place. 

For further updates, visit Ms La Rocca’s community and development council’s Facebook page.