Council’s callous letter to grieving mum
AMANDA Farrawell is still grieving the sudden death of her precious baby. Now, a shocking letter from the council has devastated her.
The grieving siblings and young cousins of little baby Trent decorated his grave with solar lights so that he wouldn't feel scared at night.
It was a touching gesture at a time of unspeakable grief for his mother Amanda Farrawell, who lost her four-month-old boy to SIDS in November last year.
So, she was left reeling when the local council sent her a letter demanding the lights and other personal items be removed for safety reasons and to maintain a "solemn environment".
Kempsey Shire Council on the New South Wales north coast issued a deadline of July 14 to Ms Farrawell, which is two days before little Trent would have turned one.
"I was angry and crying," Ms Farrawell told news.com.au.
Her other children and their cousins "love putting lights on Trent's grave" to make them feel closer to the boy they barely got to know.
"They say he's not scared because he has the lights," Ms Farrawell said.
"The only bit where we're allowed to put lights on is a headstone, but he hasn't got a headstone still because we only lost him in November."
About 100 families received letters identical to Ms Farrawell's from the council - it says after complaints from the public about the appearance of graves from personal tributes.
Kempsey Shire Council said it asks that families keep personal tributes on the concrete beams of a gravesite and avoid placing items on the grass areas of the grave.
After July 14, any items that would limit cemetery staff from mowing and maintaining the grounds will be removed.
In response, Ms Farrawell has launched an online petition appealing to council, to reconsider and let the lights stay. It has received more than 550 signatures from sympathetic locals.
Ms Farrawell pointed out that she has been using her own whipper snipper to mow around the grave.
"They can't mow (the area) because it's all new earth," she said. "If there is anything ever untidy … when I go there twice a week, we clean it up.
"Most of the time it's stuff that's blown off the highway. We're always there, if we didn't live here and we didn't clean it, that I'd understand.
"It's always kept clean, it's not a place I want dirty (because) the kids always go there. On Mother's Day I went and sat with him and watched the sunrise."
Stephen Mitchell, Kempsey Shire Council's Director of Corporate and Commercial, said it has a responsibility to ensure cemeteries are safe and solemn environments for the community.
"Council has flower and ornament regulations in place to ensure the cemetery sites remain
safe, clean and tidy for families to visit and reflect," Mr Mitchell said.
"Tributes or ornaments of any kind - including statues, icons, vases, lights and flags - are not permitted to be placed on the ground in lawn sections."
In NSW, the land used for burials belongs to councils, not families, and local authorities reserve the right to remove tributes to maintain the cemeteries, he said.
Since the letters were sent, Ms Farrawell said other families had put lights on graves in different cemeteries in solidarity and protest.
"Just hopefully we can get them to compromise a little bit," she said.