'In Conversation with' Robert Pitt

How to Build Tourism Award Winning Cemetery Tours

In this webinar, we spoke with Robert Pitt, CEO of Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, about their Tourism Award Winning cemetery tours which balance cultural sensitivities with educational experiences. Robert explained how they worked with volunteers and the community to design and deliver the tours, how they have evolved, and the benefits to the Cemetery and the surrounding community.

Key Takeaways:

Consultation with the community and those who visited the cemetery for remembrance purposes was undertaken prior to the launch of the tours.

Considerations:

  • Plans inform the activities within the cemetery and provide guidelines and policy.
  • Engage with volunteers and leverage their knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm.
  • Start small with the number of tours on offer.
  • Takes time to develop each tour.
  • Mapping out the route for the tours is critical to ensure access is hazard free and safe for participants.
  • Tours are changed every couple of years.
  • Contributes to the conservation of the area.
  • A cared for cemetery get people into the cemetery and helps protect against vandalism.
  • Visiting cemeteries makes people think about pre-need planning.

Cemeteries are a place for grieving and remembering, they connect the community with its past, and the tours are conducted with the underlying belief of maintaining dignity and respect.

Transcript

Lea-Ann McNeill

OK, so our webinar is now live. So welcome, everybody, to the latest in OpusXenta series of "In Conversation". I was just chatting with our speaker today, Robert, who I'll introduced to the moment. Robert's got his water. He's very healthy. I've got my coffee. So I hope you're all sitting down ready to enjoy another great conversation.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Before I kind of do any more formal introductions, just a few little housekeeping bits and pieces for everybody. There is two kind of conversational chat pieces with Zoom. We'll be using chat for any technical issues that you might have. But if you've got any questions that you would like me to share with Robert as the webinar goes on, just post those through the Q&A feature on your Zoom page and I'll share those. Also, the webinar, as per usual, is being recorded. So we record those and we will later share them more broadly. We also do a transcript of those recordings and that transcript will also be available for people down the track.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So, I best introduce Robert, for those of you that haven't met him. Robert's quite well known within the Cemeterian industry. I'd say you've been around for a long time, Robert, but I'd tread cautiously with my statements. But Robert has been the CEO since 2010 at the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority. And in that time, well, there's been quite a lot of change. But certainly Robert is well known in the industry for his innovation and his leadership in the cemetery space in terms of doing things differently. And the tours that we're going to talk about today is probably one prime example of that.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Heritage listed West Terrace Cemetery is right on the fringes of the Adelaide CBD. And we'll be talking about a number of different tours that are run there within West Terrace, where I must say I had the great pleasure of enjoying last Thursday evening now, I went and did the West Terrace Night Tour, which is fantastic. So if you get an opportunity, please go and do that. But as a result of those cultural tourism experiences, West Terrace Cemetery was inducted into the South Australian Tourism Industry’s Hall of Fame. I don't know if any other cemetery anywhere has been able to achieve that. So today we're going to have a chat with Robert and find out, I guess, exactly how they did go about doing that and also maybe how the rest of us can sort of live and learn, and perhaps run some great tours in our own cemetery. So welcome, Robert.

Robert Pitt

Thanks, Lea-Ann. Thank you for the kind introduction and good morning to everyone who's on the webinar.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So maybe a great way to start, I guess, as we've talked about previously, is exactly how the idea of these tours in West Terrace actually started.

Robert Pitt

Yeah thanks, there's probably a couple of elements to it. In about 2005, we were handed over West Terrace Cemetery in1999. For those of you that don't know much about it, it's twenty seven hectares, part of the Adelaide parklands on the edge of the CBD of Adelaide. And it's been a cemetery since February 1837 and it's on the state heritage list. For many, many years it was part of a state government department up until 1999, it was part of the public buildings department.

Robert Pitt

But then they created the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority. And I'll be very frank, we ran Enfield and Cheltenham cemeteries as well. They were making a surplus and the government, in its wisdom, probably quite smartly transferred the cemetery to our care and control to cross subsidize it. It is old, we still do 50 burials there a year, but nevertheless, it doesn't generate an operating surplus. It runs at a deficit. And we actually cross subsidize that from our other cemeteries. But that's part of our remit and that's what the government wants us to do.

Robert Pitt

So a couple of things happened. First of all, as a state heritage place, we identified the need to do a conservation management plan. We're quite fortunate here. We have a couple of very good people who can do this. And we had a woman called Kate McDougal develop that for us in 2005. And the conservation management plan covered seven areas, including landscapes, monuments and structures, graves, the flora and fauna there. We've got snakes and other things, possums in the cemetery and we've got some native vegetation in the cemetery.

Robert Pitt

But one of the areas was clearly about cemetery tourism and getting people into the cemetery. So that was 2005, but it really came home for us in 2010. In January 2010, for whatever reason, someone or some persons went in and smashed 242 graves, damaged them. We then created a little risk management group, and established the West Terrace Cemetery Community Consultative Committee. That included the council in St. Paul and local residents. But one of the findings there, Lea-Ann, was that, critical to improving the cemetery and the safety wasn't just putting in, we put in 32 Infra-Red security cameras, but it was about getting people using the cemetery.

Robert Pitt

The other thing I think is that over the last 10 years, we've gone from 18 percent of our annual revenue, which is about four million dollars. We've gone from what we call preneed or prepaid services. It's now up to 41 percent. And our target is 50 percent. And that is about engaging with people before the time comes, having those conversations and people preplanning and prepaying for a whole lot of reasons.

Robert Pitt

One, clearly, were buying future business, but in relation to families and loved ones, our view is that people who make those decisions and organize that ahead of time get better outcomes, probably less costly outcomes and go with a peace of mind about things being planned. So the tourism was linked into that. It dovetailed into our brand and our business strategy as well in relation to pre needs. And so, on the back of the conservation management plan, we then developed a cemetery interpretation plan for West Terrace Cemetery.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Do you, I know we talked about this when we caught up earlier, I think it's quite an interesting thing that when people start to come back in and visit cemeteries, you know, they might not have thought about what's going to happen to me or to my family members. But going in and visiting cemeteries, even in the vein of doing a tour, actually does make people start to think about it and start to plan and as you say, potentially links to business opportunities.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, that's a good point. And I think, you know, if I set the business opportunities aside,  I mean, quite frankly, our tours don't make a lot of money. We're about breaking even in our tours. That said, it cost us a bit to set them up. But in terms of that, it's also linked back to the whole idea, particularly of West Terrace being, you know, nearly 190 years old. It clearly is an archive of Adelaide's colonial history.

Robert Pitt

It's an archive of family history. There's a number of boats of the colonial settlers who arrived in the 1830s - late 1830s, early 1840s. And you can devolve the families right down to a whole lot of well known Adelaide families. Most people in Adelaide have someone or know of someone in West Terrace Cemetery. 150,000 people buried there. So there was a real opportunity there for us. And I think we also saw while it wasn't necessarily generating significant revenues for us, in terms of raising the brand of the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, it gave us a profile.

Robert Pitt

And it really I mean, I'm sure the people in the webinar, yesterday we had the Somerton man's exhumation at West Terrace Cemetery, a national, international massive coverage here, and the Adelaide Cemeteries was all over it. So it was aligned with our brand. And that is linked to our cemeteries. People now know, our brand recognition has gone from 2013 from 23 percent to 67 percent.

Lea-Ann McNeill

And for those people on the webinar who may or may not be aware, Adelaide has had tenured burial systems since the late eighteen hundreds, which I might say was news for me that you've been doing tenured that long. Is West Terrace also subject to tenure or because it is heritage listed, It's really much more about family burials?

Robert Pitt

Both. So it is subject to tenure because essentially since 1837, they've 99 year rights and it was legislated in 1862. But to your point, Lea-Ann, while West Terrace has 99 and 50 year tenures. At the end of the tenure, we can't reuse what we can in other cemeteries because of the state heritage listing.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

Therein lies the challenge and hence this cross-subsidization. But yeah, I've spoken to a fairly high level so far. But if you drill down to the lower level stuff, but perhaps the more practical application of it, it was a significant challenge for us at West Terrace, but we could see the opportunities and I touched on the family histories and the archives, and even the monuments at West Terrace. We've just released a book on the monumental masons who work at West Terrace. But we could see the opportunities in those stories as there are. And even the smallest little rural outback cemetery, there might only be 50 graves, but I guarantee this, there's at least ten, if not 50 really good stories there.

Lea-Ann McNeill

The stories, I would agree, great stories in cemeteries. Doesn't matter where you go. What about families? What about the attitude of families to the notion of their loved one, you know, being turned into a tour stop? Has that been any pushback in regards to that?

Robert Pitt

Now, that's part of our process, certainly. Well, I indicated in about 2010 we identified the idea and looked at the conservation management plan, which provided some policy and guidelines around that. So I've got, bear with me I'm using some sheet notes here, but we had five policy principles in the interpretation plan and tours. So, all interpretation had to be consistent with the conservation management plan. The interpretation had to be based on sound historical framework. In fact, interpretation had to be low impact and portable.

Robert Pitt

So the idea was we could pick it up and move it around and take the model wherever. In fact we've taken the model from West Terrace use it at Cheltenham. Interpretation we developed with the needs of the audience in mind. So the important point there is we develop not just the famous night tours, but the tourism award also identified the day tours we do, which are very historically based and delivered by our Friends of West Terrace volunteers, and some of the other things we did at the cemetery in terms of events and activities so that the award we won was more of a holistic award as opposed to just for the night tours. That said, the night tours were fairly innovative at the time.

Robert Pitt

And the fifth principle was there needed to be a consistent style and brand with the tours as well. And again, that was in keeping with Adelaide cemeteries. We used to brand and market our four different cemeteries. They're all four very different ones. So we run Enfield, which is a 1946 woodland forest lawn cemetery. West Terrace Heritage Victorian, Cheltenham Local Port,14 hectares, very old fashioned as well, and then Smithfield, which is 30 years old, more like a national park.

Robert Pitt

We used to promote the four different brands, but we flipped that and started just to promote Adelaide Cemetery. So if you went to Adelaide cemeteries, you got the same level of service and quality and product across all four cemeteries and our tours.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah. So I was going to say, you talked about the different types of tours and I guess the different people that run them and also the different audiences. So if you could just step us through, what are the different types of tours that you do run?

Robert Pitt

Yeah, sorry. Sorry. Just to come back to your families there, in developing those, the challenge for us at West Terrace. And I think the challenge for most of us in the webinar is actually which stories not to use because we identified about 480 stories and we end up developing five self-guided tours, each with about 20 on them. And then we did the night tour that had another five stories, but we actually went out and made contact wherever we could with descendants of the people who were on the tour and got families permission, written permission, to actually include them on the tours.

Robert Pitt

And of course, often when we engage with the families, they were more than happy to do so, and provide us with extra information and some other resources.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

So in terms of the tours, certainly we already had a Friends of West Terrace who did a lot of research and they developed some tours at West Terrace. West Terrace has the first military cemetery in Australia, and there's about 5000 returned servicemen and women buried in West Terrace. Most of them, 4000, are in the Australian Imperial Forces section, which many people don't know. That's the Australian war graves we look after and maintain that.

Robert Pitt

So clearly we had some things from the Friends who developed some self-guided tours. Most of them were retired people. We had one, Bob's really keen on sport. So he does sporting tours. There's cricketers, some footballers, the one, there's a guy here who won the Magarey Medal, which is the South Australian equivalent of the Brownlow, and he was actually wounded in Gallipoli, left for dead. And then some fellow who was a stretcher bearer recognized him as winning the Magarey Medal and picked him up and brought him back. And he came back, won another Magarey Medal. These are the sort of stories you have.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

And then there's walking with ANZACs, which Bob did as well. A couple of our people, Rita and Philippa, did ones about early settlers and early pioneers. And we have other themes which cross over into our self-guided tours as a trailblazing women tour. Probably one of the popular ones is the everyday life stories, and they're just about stories around Adelaide and working class people.

Robert Pitt

And there is a heritage highlights one where we take out what you might call prominent or important people, and we do that tour as well. So they're held during the day and about ten dollars each. And we also, importantly, we limit the tours. Day tours are 15, the night to the 20 people, the day tours are 15, because we find if we have more than that, you lose that intimacy. So it is that interaction. So there the day tours and they're very much more factual, very historical based, highly researched.

Speaker 2

And then we have five self guided tours where you pick up the brochure, well until recently, it's now on the phone. So you just, it's a bit like you, QR code. You put your camera on your iPhone, this QR code, and it just takes you straight to our website, the authority's website. And we go and there's your tour.

Lea-Ann McNeill

It's there for you. Great.

Robert Pitt

So it's not, it's no App.

Lea-Ann McNeill

You're not having to download apps and things like that. Yeah, okay great.

Robert Pitt

And those are the five things. We said, we've got the heritage highlights, which is sort of the best of the cemetery. You have trailblazing women. We've got beliefs, customs and attitudes, which looks at the different spiritual areas throughout the cemetery, Jewish, Catholic, Druse, Anglican. They've got the Afghans there as well. We've got a section where we had some people donate their body to science. So it's about changing beliefs and customs.

Robert Pitt

And then we have arts and letters. So we've got people like Percy Grainger there and we go around and do that. And that's more arts focus tour. And then we also do a tour on natural history because West Terrace has some of the last remnant vegetation on the Adelaide plains. And we go in and also take in different areas of the cemetery with different styles. And we have the olives which we bottle. So we pick the olives, bottle the olive oil, and sell that in the Adelaide market and that's very popular. And we've got we've got some 1920s sort of art deco style areas and most big cemeteries do have these sorts of things. So we talk about cemetery landscaping in those.

Robert Pitt

The night tours are pretty unusual, it's funky. So that's where we push in a bit.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

And we sort of had the underlying belief that we need to maintain the dignity and respect and also, as I said, get the family's permission. But the night tours, we latched onto these lights in Queensland that you buy, that there's sound and lights and the lights go on and off and they're controlled by the person taking the tour. So we have a narrator that takes you around as you experience it. Under their cloak they've got a belt and every person on the tour of twenty holds a lantern and the person taking the tourist, on their belt can switch off different lanterns and sounds and noises and lights throughout the tour.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Giving away the secret! I wondered how that was being controlled! I'm thinking it wasn't on a timer, it had to be on some sort of control. And yeah, for those that have never been on this tour, I can't recommend that enough the way those lanterns worked. And it meant that the sound obviously changed because it came from different areas of the group, with different lanterns being activated at different times. It really set a great mood.

Robert Pitt

Now, I think so too, and I think the other thing about the night tour, it had some risks. We have to do some risk assessments. And it doesn't look that well plotted but trust me, we've avoided paths which are dangerous and unstable. And so it is quite structured. And, of course, like many people do, we actually incorporate actors in. But I think being in the cemetery at night time with the lighting and of course, you're on the edge of the Adelaide CBD, so there's still a fair bit of light coming in. But you get that sense of place at night with the shadows in the darkness, and we certainly try to leverage that throughout the tour. But in energy and experience, we think the tour goes as far as I want to go in terms of pushing the boundaries of respect and dignity and what I think we almost touch on the edge of it. That said, we do do a special one off Halloween tour where we take it another step further, but we warn people about that one. That is purely based around Adelaide's well-known reputation for "Murder Most Foul".

Lea-Ann McNeill

I was going to ask that question about safety, actually, because, I mean, you've talked about doing conservation management plans that obviously gives you some direction around the preservation of the space. You talked about your interpretation plans, which I'm guessing help inform the stories and help you want to tell those stories. And safety in cemeteries is a challenge at the best of times, let alone when you're walking around in the dark. So I'm assuming there's, kind of, safety plans that went along in the development of these tours?

Robert Pitt

Yes, sure. And again, the first, we change the tour every two years, we try, so we run them every second Friday night, we run them, charge I think it's 20 dollars a head and so they just about recover of costs. We have actors who we pay to be in the tours and we have a, you know, they have an actor or an understudy. So if someone can't do the tour, we've got someone that can step up.

Robert Pitt

But to your point, we have said clearly mapped out and walked the area during the daytime to find and avoid any tripping hazards. Probably the difference is the day tour and the night tours, is we get a younger demographic on the night tour. The day tours tend to be older, retired people. I'm generalizing here because it's not always. The night tour tends to appeal a bit more to younger people.

Robert Pitt

And of course, the other thing with West Terrace is we're straight across the road from the Elephant and Castle Hotel, which has a really good reputation for meals. So often people go over there and for a while there, we had a package with the pub about having a can and something and then coming over for a tour or vice versa.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, yeah. No, that's great. And you talked about, you know, pushing the boundaries a little bit with Halloween. Do you do, or have you been involved with any other kind of, let's say special occasion type tours? Do you change them or do something different if there's a particular festival or date on the calendar at all?

Robert Pitt

Not specifically. We sort of, we explored a bit of dark tourism. I mean, that's where you have sort of death and macabre as the centre of what you're offering. And that's the focus of whatever tourism you're doing. And while it has an appeal, I say we've been careful not to go and actually, again, we touch on it, but I don't think we necessarily push it.

Lea-Ann McNeill

No, I don't think so.

Robert Pitt

There's one bit in the tour, or probably a couple. But it's a bit more about reflections from the actors, I think. And we could do a lot more. While we haven't developed other tours, I touched on the fact that the tourism awards wasn't just about the tours. And so we do other things like, we've had a mystery dinner in there where there's a group in Adelaide who try and find venues to go and have dinners. They have a van, a bus with a portable kitchen on the back.

Robert Pitt

So they don't know where they're going, but they pull up at West Terrace at seven o'clock on Saturday night. We had a long table set up and they were given some information throughout the night and they had to stand up and talk about a person who was buried in the cemetery, and they had a three course meal that finished at 1 AM and then they left.

Robert Pitt

We have death over dinner. So we, it's really about almost like a Death cafe or the dialogue of dialogue. So we actually have chairs and bean bags and have much like we had for CCASA the other night, and we have a pallet truck, wine, beer,  tea and coffee. And we have three experts. We've done a Sikh priest, the Catholic priest in the Salvation Army with spiritualism. Then we had a death doula, or a palliative care nurse. So they're almost like some of those ABC programs where you have a panel of three and you interact with the audience and ask questions about death and dying.

Robert Pitt

We've done some sounds. There's a couple of composers, Percy Grainger. So we had someone do a concert of Grainger's stuff in the cemetery. And we're looking at sounds of the cemetery next year.

Robert Pitt

And of course, we do things like the Remembrance Day service, very highly thought of as well. Our Remembrance Day Service is really schools based. Community based. Yeah, so it's a really holistic approach.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, I think it's covering, just we're covering the whole range of things, actually. You had your tours accredited. So I guess, how did you do that and why did you do that?

Robert Pitt

The South Australian Tourism Commission offers a tourism accreditation program. I think it's national as well, pretty sure it is. And it's much like any of those standards and you have. You have to undertake a fair bit of compliance to get the accreditation. It did a few things for us. First of all, you know, you have to demonstrate a number of competencies and commitments over time in relation to the provision of the tourism opportunities and tourism experience.

Robert Pitt

And the other thing with that is also, of course, you also need to monitor and report back on, you know, the frequency and the visitation and patronage of them. What it did for us, though, was opened up a whole lot of doors with the Tourism Commission. It opened up, our core competencies, clearly weren't running to us, you know, we're records managers, and we dispose of deceased people through cremation and burials and we look after cemeteries and grounds.

Robert Pitt

But it wasn't our core competency. We certainly went and recruited a person with some of those skills. And he'd previously worked for the Limestone Coast, which is south of Adelaide, down near Mount Gambier. And it's about five councils. And he was the tourism officer down there. So he came and worked for us. But he didn't just do tourism, but that was setting it up was very good. And, I said, through the SA Tourism Commission, just give us some access to some resources and advice, and also it meant that through Tourism Commission we also had the tours advertised and marketed and promoted throughout various venues and outlets in South Australia and Interstate. So that helped as well.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, actually I'm just going to quickly mention too. If anybody has any questions, please feel free to feed them through. I can sit and chat with Robert, but if people have any particular questions that they would like to ask, please feed those through. So I was going to say, if I was sitting here listening to you today, I mean, you talked about recruiting somebody kind of specific to support the idea of cemetery tourism. But if I was a small cemetery out there looking to do something like this, where would I start? Like, where would I start and how could I achieve it? Do you think?

Robert Pitt

You know, that's a good question, because I think, you know, I just thinking while you're speaking and I indicated about recruiting, and this is the eternal dilemma, isn't it? When we have these cemetery associations, you've got Centennial Park in us. Our revenues are 12 million dollars a year now. We're not there. We're not the norm. We're the bells and whistles model.

Robert Pitt

And I think my answer would be that certainly councils probably have a few more resources and some internal resources. I think leveraging and pulling your volunteers. But start small. Certainly we introduced just the one tour, the heritage highlights tour, and then we built the other tours over the following two and a half years. The night tour was a considerable amount of work in terms of getting it up and running. That was about 18 months worth of work. How do you do it if you're a small sort of church base or local government model?

Robert Pitt

I think you're going to have to engage with volunteers to help you with your research. We're more than happy to help you and give you some guidance or advice, Adelaide cemeteries, we sort of see our role as supporting cemeteries, particularly in South Australia, but we also share information with Western Australia and Sydney and Melbourne. We're more than happy to do that. I think the other thing you want to think of these days, is what I've touched on, too. When we introduce these tours, seven, eight years ago, they were very much paper-based.

Robert Pitt

You can actually do them quite cheaply now, just online and on mobile phones. And it's still a challenge because a large number of the people who do our tours are older. And again, I shouldn't make assumptions, but we still get requests for the paper based tourism brochures and we have those. However, over time, we will find that people will move away from those. And we do school tours, too. We have kids come through and do stuff linked back with their curriculums and their projects at school. And the kids, the students that come in just love the phone stuff. They're just all over it like a rash.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, they know what they're doing.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, I think that's my answer to your question would be to start small and you're going to have to do a bit of legwork yourself. Is there funding around? I don't really know any more. As I said, we didn't really go for too much funding. I think we had seed funding somewhere for those lights. And we applied for that through the Tourism Commission. And I think we got about ten thousand dollars. They cost a bit more than that. But that's one start. I developed a fairly short tour, we find any more than 90 minutes, which is about, depending on the size of your cemetery, perhaps pick anything from 12 to 20 sites.

Robert Pitt

One of the things we found was people were trying to include too many sites in the tour. So pick 12, lets say 12, no more than 20, probably right at 15 sites, make the tour go for an hour and a half, but make those sites really interesting, different, choose a very old story, perhaps an unusual, quirky one, one with women, one that's a bit sort of on the edge of dark tourism. Blend it up. Don't make them all the same. Try and map out and physically walk it, there's a few rules when you're in a cemetery, unwritten ones: when in doubt go on site. And that applies to the tours as well. So we just introduced something to Cheltenham Cemetery and we did it on a Sunday morning from 10:30 to 12 and we finished at ten past twelve. So we had one site too many, and you could see people waiting. And also we need to make the walk around tighter. The walk's still part of it. But you don't want to be spending five or ten minutes of the tour trying to walk from one part of the cemetery to the other. So your mapping of your route of your tour is critical for the blending of the stories.

Robert Pitt

And ultimately too, there is a real balance between what tone you want on the tour. So do you want it to be incredibly factual, which and it may be that you offer two tours as we do the day tours by our volunteers are incredibly factual. Some say to dry, typically the people who want that don't want to be going to the night tour which, I said, pushes the dark tourism a bit and is a bit info-entertainment. It's entertainment and information. So the person who takes the tour and conducts tour is critical. What do you want them to look like? How do you want them to present? What do you want to say? What do you want them not to say? And what sort of information are they sharing? They're the sort of questions you got to ask? Ultimately, why do you give a tour?

Lea-Ann McNeill

Well, and I was going to say, I guess some of it, you know, you were clearly in a really fortunate situation in that, well not that you said, that you didn't really have somebody pushing back on you and going, "You know, is this really... Do we really want to do this in cemeteries? Won’t people be offended?" I mean, I guess are there hints or messages that you could give to cemetery operators in terms of how they could, I guess, counteract those kinds of comments that they might hear from their council or the their board or the like.

Robert Pitt

I think we've touched on some of those Lea-Ann. I think, I won’t say that tours is the proverbial tip of the iceberg, but having the conservation management plan and an interpretation plan, interpretive plan for the cemetery. And they don't need to be, you know, the one at West Terrace, West Terrace is 27 hectares. Our interpretation plan is 20 pages with attachments. It's not complex, but it actually sits. And we have a heritage or monument committee or cemetery committee and they adopt the conservation plan.

Robert Pitt

They adopt the interpretation plan. So we've got a basis as to why we're doing it. And the interpretation plan, I said, those five policies sets out how we should do it. Excuse me, and I think then, by engaging with and involving local community and volunteers and schools, again, you get that level of validity and justification as to why you do it and if you also quite smart.

Robert Pitt

So we also do adopt a grave at West Terrace Cemetery. So in Adelaide, Year 9 students have to do 10 hours of community service. That's the first element of their year 12 graduation. It's the first certificate they get. So West Terrace, we're not far from Adelaide High School and in term two and term three, we take 20 students, year 9 students. They come in groups of two. We give them two or three graves. They go off and research the grave in the state library, then come back and we do a one hour induction with them.

Robert Pitt

And then they actually, a lot of them have got the wire steal fences around them. So they brush that with the wire brush. They then treat it with an emulsion, which the heritage advisers prescribed, they clean the headstone, they try and find little letters that have fallen out, they clean and tidy it up. Then in the last week, we have a morning tea, and they give a PowerPoint presentation on who was in the grave, what they learnt and how they felt about it.

Robert Pitt

And we hand out certificates, which is the first certificate to go into their CVs pretty well.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

And the feedback on that is outstanding. And again, that just in terms of engaging and validating what you're doing, it's just, it's a no brainer.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Well, it creates a community space rather than one that just trying to manage on your own. Yeah, yeah. A comment has come through, from Yackandandah. They do an annual cemetery walk during History Week month in Victoria in October, and they talk about a close relationship they have with their local volunteer museum group, who do a lot of the research. It was museum History Week in South Australia? Was that last week or this week?

Robert Pitt

Its History Month.

Lea-Ann McNeill

History Month. Okay.

Robert Pitt

So tonight I'm giving a one and a half hour talk, this is the CEO's talk on the history of West Terrace. I've got twenty people again, we're doing wine and cheese in a fairly informal setting, and I've got all the slides and just share with them what we know about West Terrace Cemetery, its history and how it developed.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah. And I guess if ever there was a time to be able to counteract some of those arguments about tours is in cemeteries and things like that. Things like history week are the perfect opportunity because that is, as you've said, where a lot of an area's history is all sitting.

Robert Pitt

It is, and I think the academic one is interesting and I'd be interested to hear, because we found volunteers, it's interesting that they say "get volunteers in", but ultimately when you do that, you need to perhaps have a sense of purpose of why you want the volunteers, how you will, or won't use them, what your expectations of them are. And ultimately, too, volunteers, still need a level of management and resourcing. While their labor comes generally at no cost, you need to put appropriate support systems around volunteers to help them.

Robert Pitt

And in my experience, as you pointed out, I'm quite old now, but volunteers in groups tend to go through crests of being very active and very brilliant in this fragmentation. And they go a bit inactive and then you build up again and it's over a number of years. And that's been our experience at West Terrace. I think the other point to make, too, is whether Yackandandah or the West Terrace Cemetery, the tours we have are actually, as I said, they're a part of the overall conservation management plan.

Robert Pitt

We put bike paths through the cemetery because part of the parklands. So cyclists ride east, west, north, south and cycle through the cemetery. We fixed up and got heritage grounds to fix up some old buildings and structures and walls and things. And people just start to see it cared for, and you get people into the cemetery as well, just changes the profile of the cemetery and in fact the Adelaide Cemetery Authority as well.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, I agree. And we've been talking about it a lot. Maybe this is a good time, Robert, for me to pop some of these slides up that you, photos that you've shared with me, because we've talked about a few of the different types of tours. Well, photographs always speak a thousand words. So I might pop these up. And if you wouldn't mind, I guess talking us through what they show. So I'll share my screen now for everybody.

Lea-Ann McNeill

All right, can we see that?

Robert Pitt

Sure.

Lea-Ann McNeill

OK.

Robert Pitt

So start with the bottom left hand photo. So that's our brochure rack and it's got a little lid on it. So it's all weather protection. And what you see there is three of the five self guided tours there. There are A3 size that fold out. And the first one is Heritage Highlights. That's the green one with the angel sorry, the green one on the left, the center one is customs and beliefs, I think. And the third one is trailblazing women.

Robert Pitt

So when you fold those out, it has a map of the cemetery, tells you where to start your walk, and then it has a little one sentence about each of the sites you visit on those tours. The picture above with Gertrude Ellen Meade is actually one of our directional signs. So again, in the interpretive plan, it mentioned, it spoke about making sure that there were clear directional signage and consistent signage.

Robert Pitt

So each tour is color coded with signs, as you can see in the brochure, down the bottom for trailblazing women. The directional sign is the same. And these are about waist height throughout the cemetery. So you navigate and follow the signs and the directional signs in conjunction with your brochure or your phone. When you get to each site, you'll find there’s more detailed information about the particular area you've gone to. So on the right hand corner there, you can see the interpreting sign at the front for this particular site.

Robert Pitt

I'm sorry, I can't quite read it. And that one doesn't strike a bell with me, so I'm not sure what it is. I think that's the policeman who was killed. Yes, that's a policeman who was killed in action. I can see from the police, there’s this interpretive sign on each site actually tells you that.

Robert Pitt

The other thing you can't quite see on this, which we've done. And I haven't explained today is, in the picture on the right, where you've got the tall monument and the interpretive sign. That's a little QR code there. So we did an experiment last year which sort of had mixed results on it. On 10 sites, we've got QR codes, which if you point your phone at and download an app, there's an actor who comes up for five minutes and says "Hello, you're at the grave of Constable Hyde. Can I tell you about Constable Hyde myself" and the actor does a five minute little vignette of the person who's buried in the grave, and their life story.

Robert Pitt

But we're building them in now differently as well, using GPS that's developing at the moment. So the phone will pick up GPS and say "You're near the grave of Constable Hyde. Where would you like to learn more about him?" You press yes. And you go straight to our website and you'll get similar sort of stuff as well.

Robert Pitt

Again, on the left is Jen. So, Jen Smith is one of our volunteers or she's just recently retired, actually. Jen, we are very fortunate. She was actually born in Adelaide and for the first three years of her life, lived in the curator's house at West Terrace cemetery. So that was pretty special. But she's actually peaking at one of the brochures. And in fact, this is the sign as you enter the cemetery, the brochure holder and the information about the tours is there immediately as you walk into the cemetery. And the picture on the right is Bob. He's doing one of the daytime guided tours in the cemetery and taking people around.

Robert Pitt

And again, as I say, we try and limit those to about 15 or 20 people. Just gives that intimacy and from a safety point of view, as you touched on Lea-Ann, easy to manage 15 people. Excuse me. And also you don't have to have those megaphones. You know, you see some tours that people have got these belt sort of driven speakers and microphones. With 15 people, you can just talk and answer questions and it's a bit more intimate.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

You're on to the night tours now, and we talked about the lanterns, but I think what the picture on the bottom left does show, as you say, the back to us in the middle was the narrator. And we do put on the Cape, but the Cape isn't just for theatrics. It also, as I said, that function where it hides the control buttons, for the lanterns and the lights. So each of those lanterns there that you see the green lights held by each person on the tour, they can be independently operated and manipulated for different colors, different sounds, or silence.

Robert Pitt

And you carry that throughout the cemetery. And of course, the lanterns also give you some illumination to navigate the paths as well. And on the right.

Lea-Ann McNeill

They do change color?

Robert Pitt

They do, yeah. There's a whole range of colors. And it's Nick or Tara, our two narrators and they just control it and change it. Yes, yes.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yes.

Robert Pitt

That's some of the idea of the night tour. We have said, we employ some actors and they take on various roles, the one on the left is Francis Monk, the gentleman in the glasses. The one next to the headstone with the cape is our narrator. We have a woman who was murdered by her husband in the white cap. And in the right hand side is a detective who takes people through the unknown man, Somerton Man on the Beach story, where we have some props, such as a copy of the time and shard, the slight of the code that was found and there's other things from his suitcase as well.

Robert Pitt

So you blend some interaction and that's part of it too, the actors emerge out of the darkness. Not every sight on the night tour, out of about 10 sites you go to, I think four or five, four, I think have actors who come out and just from the darkness talk or in one case, don't talk and move on and move back into the darkness. And I think that adds to the whole experience as well.

Lea-Ann McNeill

It does, because you do, after it happens the first time you spend the rest of your time looking through the cemetery waiting for something to step out from behind a tree.

Robert Pitt

That's the olive oil. So, as I said, West Terrace, Adelaide was first colonial settlers came in December 1836 and West Terrace was six weeks later, was the first burial recorded there. About four or five years later is some of the oldest olive trees planted in South Australia throughout Adelaide. And a lot of them were planted in the cemetery, particularly the boundary of the cemetery. Each year, we pick the olives and it's about now, it's in May, towards the end of May. So it must be due to do it again. We recently moved to engaging with private pickers because we found we get a better return. We increased our yield by about 60 percent. We bottle the olive oil and sell it in the market. We also use it for PR and gifts for people. The market can't get enough of it. They sell out every year very quickly. And that was a fairly plain label which the marketers  like. Last year we did do a commemorative label to acknowledge a milestone in the cemetery.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, great stuff. All right, we'll just bring us all back. I guess I'm conscious of time and just having a look that we haven't gotten any specific questions from the audience. What's next, Robert? Like you're doing so much, what do you think is next?

Robert Pitt

So at the moment, we are revamping the tours, certainly just, it was only last week we actually put on the phone. The final link to the website with just photographing the QR code.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

I think it's leveraging the technology is clearly what's up for us. We're actually the next generation of those lanterns and lights that we have. They take it from another level. In terms of phones, we've certainly got the smart memorial which picks you up, as I said, within areas. It's clever. Within a few meters of the grave, it picks up your location and asks, would you like to know more about these people? It's taking that next step, but I think we've discussed this before, families can either get together after someone's passed away or sorry, died, and make their own presentation and put it onto this memorial, which is picked up. And you just put it on your phone, or you could take the PowerPoint from the funeral service and put it on there.

Robert Pitt

Or I think the logical step is people prerecording their own little five minute spiel.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Their own bio, yeah.

Robert Pitt

And look, it might be a bit confronting to some people, but I think that's where it's heading. If I look at the, it's not so much hedonistic, but it's the self interest stuff of some social media, and you're probably picking up I'm not a fan, and I'm not. But people are getting more and more about wanting to tell people about their lives and their stories. And you can also personalize it, which is very good and you can customize it. So I think that idea of prerecording something and putting some of your favorite music or some of your favorite images and family images on yourself, that would actually become even more and more important.

Robert Pitt

Possibly, too, if you align that, and I'm being a bit bold here, if you align that with some of the movements towards euthanasia, if you think about the fact that in the next 30 years, the number of deaths across Australia is going to double by 2050. So instead of a hundred and fifty thousand deaths in Australia, there'll be 300000 deaths. And that's pretty well around all states. There'll be more and more people confronted with either their own mortality or the death and bereavement and grief of a very close relative. So I think that will appeal.

Robert Pitt

And then the other thing is just trying to do some different things, without pushing the boundaries of the cemetery. So next year we're going to do, as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, we are putting a proposal to them to have Sounds in the Cemetery where you turn up in the evening and in the cemetery you do this 2 hour walk to eight different venues. And in one we've got a jazz singer. One we've got a classical group, one we've got something really weird and sort of avant-garde going on with some industrial noise, one we've got someone doing 60-40, and you walk around in two hours or three hours and you're going to listen to some music, probably have a drink or something to eat, and you leave and you go, wow. So that's sort of thing we're looking at those different events.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, I think what it starts to demonstrate, listening to you talk about the olive oil, the variety of different tours, is the cyclists through, the schools, those sorts of programs. I think what it really highlights to me is this real movement towards opening cemeteries up, that they're not places that should be shut behind the great big gates that nobody goes into. And it's all very scary in there, or something that we're afraid of. These are actually community places that people should be encouraged to be visiting and be involved with.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, that's a good example to say. The other thing we've done we did some workshops with the Adelaide Writers Centre, so it's a writing center. And they actually had some live readings in the cemetery, again, in the middle of the afternoon, and they were really well received. And to your points about getting them in for different reasons.

Lea-Ann McNeill

And so I think it doesn't matter whether you're, like you say, a big cemetery or you're a small cemetery, it's just about identifying perhaps some sites of interest or some ideas of interest, starting small with some planning and getting the stories written, that that's really that good place to start.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, there's little cemetery in the Alexandrina Council, the Langhorne Creek Cemetery. And a few years ago they contacted us, but they actually did poetry, they had some local poets and again, it's a one acre cemetery in the middle of the scrub, almost in some native bush. And, as I said, down there, and I think it was an evening and they just did some poetry readings. It could be as simple as that. Doesn't have to be high cost.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, but to your point, it's about just making people sit in the cemetery and perhaps do something different that they might not normally do in a cemetery, but at the same time reflect upon their mortality in their own end of life wishes.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, well, I agree. I'm thinking that we're probably nearing the end of it. Robert, you mentioned that you were always willing to help and that you may have some resources that you'd be able to share with anybody that was interested post this webinar. What sorts of things would people be able to get from you to help them get started with this?

Robert Pitt

Oh, look, certainly I'm happy to share electronic copies of the conservation management plans, fairly ballroom big. I mean, it's a twenty seven hectare site that's quite old. Certainly happy to send the interpretation plan, happy to send copies of our brochures, and even some of our tour scripts and some of our stories, and that sort of stuff as well, again, while they seem, they are quite heavily scripted, some of them.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

And some of the themes, yeah, that's probably probably a good start.

Robert Pitt

I'm just being cautious because I just realized that, you know, every cemetery while the same, they're all got their own.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah.

Robert Pitt

They've got their own stories and cultures and local communities. And I think whatever you do, you really need to tailor it to that community and that experience.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, I think we're definitely seeing a lot more consultation between cemeteries and their communities, whether it be about design and layout or any of those kinds of things. So really, this is just another opportunity for us all to engage with our community, to talk about these sorts of things and as you say, to get the good stories, because sometimes it's the community that know those better than we do.

Robert Pitt

Yeah, look, in three of our four cemeteries, we have community consultative committees that meet three or four times a year. And the one at Cheltenham, which is in Port Adelaide, has members from the Port Adelaide Historical Society who are full of knowledge, resources and information.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, yeah. So on that note, if there are no final questions, I really want to thank Robert for his time today. As he was talking, you said I've got an hour and a half. I've got to speak to somebody tonight, too. I'm thinking you'll need a nap after all of these.

Robert Pitt

I'm actually going to have one at about 5 o'clock.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Very good idea. But I think yeah, I guess the tours, we came today to talk about the tours, which was fantastic. But I think we've also heard about a lot of the other ways that we can, in fact, open our cemeteries up and encourage people to come and visit them. So just I guess, on behalf of everybody here that's been listening on the webinar. Thank you, Robert, so much for your time and for sharing your experience. Hopefully I will catch up with you next week and I'll be able to get for myself one of those nice bottles of oil.

Robert Pitt

Thank you. And if any of your participants do want to contact us, just go to our website and there's an enquiry site there and just put my name on it, if you like. We'll deal with that and respond to it.

Lea-Ann McNeill

That's lovely. Thank you so much, Robert. Enjoy the rest of your day and best of luck with your next speaking engagement.

Robert Pitt

Thank you for having me. Cheers, take care.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Thanks, everybody. See you soon.