The Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) in NSW relies on its investment portfolio to back its promise to “be here for perpetuity”. Here’s how the SMCT worked with Perpetual to align their investment strategy to a long-term mission measured in generations.
Christmas trees and teddy bears, children’s hopscotch and pergolas for picnics. Say the word “cemetery” to some people and it evokes grim images and avoidance. But for Graham Boyd, CEO of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) in NSW, cemeteries should be beautiful spaces where people can mourn, celebrate and share cherished memories.
“Cemeteries are people places,” says Graham, “and reflect the communities they come from and serve.” In NSW, the SMCT manages large cemeteries at Woronora Memorial Park and Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park. Both locations have a full calendar of memorial and community events that tie into the fabric of local areas and encourage those whose loved ones are resting at the cemeteries to see each visit as a positive experience.
From the community, for the community
Each cemetery is over 120 years old. Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park (EMSP) overlooks historic Botany Bay, has 12 First Fleeters within its grounds and also has memorial places for three Victoria Cross recipients. Woronora Memorial Park also has three VC recipients.
On 6 August 2015, Woronora Memorial Park held an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine during the Gallipoli campaign. Attended by the Governor of NSW, General David Hurley, the ceremony closed with a symbolic blowing of whistles to mark the exact moment Australian soldiers went “over the top”. Local school children provided 2,277 symbolic crosses, representing every Australian casualty at Lone Pine.
Some of the other community events the Trust holds include:
- On 15 October each year, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day promotes the support available to those who have lost an infant or baby and brings families together to remember the lives of those children.
- Christmas and Carol Services attended by hundreds, and Open Days attended by thousands of people every year.
- Functions celebrating the beauty of the two sites’ gardens – there are 17,000 roses across the two sites. SMCT employs close to 100 staff and contractors, and 40 of them work on the magnificent gardens.
Investing in perpetuity
Maintaining this community involvement and the gardens and facilities of sites with a combined area of 120 hectares is expensive. “We want to provide space and peace for those who have suffered loss,” says Graham, “and we want to do it, not for years, or decades, but for generations. To do that we need our trust investments to last as long as we do.”
SMCT is a client of Perpetual’s Not-for-Profit (NFP) team. Jamie Cockerell, Senior Adviser - Perpetual Private says, “As with many NFPs, the first big challenge was developing the right strategy for the Trust funds. SMCT and Perpetual worked together for over a year crafting an investment policy that reflected its long-term mission. A key part of that process was making sure the people managing the money for SMCT, understood the people who run SMCT.”
The result was a conservative investment portfolio designed to generate returns over many years. One that leans away from short-term investments towards those with a lengthy return profile – including alternative assets that sacrifice short-term liquidity for sustainable long-term returns.
“Our promise is that we are here, forever,” says Graham. “When you think like that, you see the future differently. It’s one of the reasons we chose Perpetual – they’ve been around 120 years or more, so like us, they know what long-term really means. Perpetual are our partner as we seek to ensure we achieve our very, very long-term mission.”