Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) is a community based, not-for-profit organisation, established by the Victorian Government to administer many of Melbourne’s most admired and historic cemeteries.

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Accountable to government – and therefore every citizen of the state – Victoria’s cemeteries trusts have social cohesion and community wellbeing as their mandate and ultimate goal.

Recently, our consultants undertook industry regulation, policy and stakeholder research, developing an approach to stakeholder engagement for the next stage of development at Bunurong, soon to become a cemetery of global significance.


It was the Ellis Jones Research as Engagement model that SMCT identified as ideal for the dual purpose of engaging communities and sourcing structured input on development plans.

Our researchers used a combination of in-depth stakeholder interviews, focus group testing and telephone surveying to source a comprehensive data set before analysis and presentation to the executive and board.

In 2016 we worked with SMCT to define and produce a creative reporting framework for their unique social impact; it created a mechanism to assess their direct and indirect contribution to the health and wellbeing, social cohesion and environmental sustainability of the local communities within which their cemeteries sit.

We worked outwards from their intimate role in enabling respectful, healthy grieving and the honoring of life – to specific indicators that aligned with local council and federal government framework, and contributed measurably to the Sustainable Development Goals.


The Research as Engagement approach not only secured the required insight within the Trust’s budget constraints, it paved the way for future consultation and collaboration with important community stakeholders.