• Date: 11/12/2017
  • Cemetery: GMCT Home

Cemeteries can take a bold and visionary approach to planning for the future, according to Australia’s most prominent futurist, Dr Peter Ellyard.

Dr Ellyard delivered a thought-provoking presentation on how cemeteries could adapt to social and technological change as part of the 2016-17 GMCT annual meeting in November. More than 100 guests joined trust members and staff from GMCT, including industry partners, suppliers, volunteers and community leaders.

Cemetery organisations like GMCT should be proactive and visionary today, Dr Ellyard said, rather than responding to technological and social change as it happens.

He warned that “those who do not live in the future today will live in the past tomorrow”.

Dr Ellyard said the way people marked “big life rituals” such as births, deaths and marriages had been transformed over time with new technology and globalisation – and would continue to evolve for years to come.

He said today’s traditions around death and memorialisation may have different meaning or a different role in the future.

“GMCT was established at a time when our cultural practices were very uniform, including how we ritualised and memorialised the end of life. Now our world is very different,” Dr Ellyard said.

In the future, he said, cultural and national barriers would be of lesser importance, in favour of diversity and a more inclusive ‘whole-of-humanity’ approach.

In planning for the needs and expectations of future communities, GMCT could ask:

  • What will people physically, spiritually and emotionally need from cemeteries in the future?
  • What might matter to us most in remembering our deceased – 10, 20, 100 and 200 years from now?
  • How might cemeteries meet those needs and what are the tools we need to do it?

Dr Ellyard said new technology would evolve to meet these future needs. For example, how might a ‘virtual cemetery visit’ help people around the world to  remember and pay tribute to deceased loved ones, when they are unable to be physically present at the location, service or gravesite?

GMCT has begun to explore this idea with the recent introduction of our cemetery virtual tour.

You can watch Dr Ellyard’s full presentation from the GMCT annual meeting below.