Daughter of Janice Valigura, Karen Bolck with LNP Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki in Rockhampton.
Daughter of Janice Valigura, Karen Bolck with LNP Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki in Rockhampton. Shayla Bulloch

I'm too angry to grieve: Rocky coffin-swap saga continues

IT'S been four months since Karen Bolck's mother was the centre of the Rockhampton coffin-swap scandal, but it hasn't become any easier.

Desperate for regulation in the funeral industry, MsBolck reached out to LNP Shadow Attorney-General David Janetzki who is now urging the State Government to act and protect families.

The funeral industry was thrust into the spotlight in January when police investigated a Rockhampton funeral home for swapping a grandmother, Janice Valigura, from a deluxe coffin into a pine box.

Mrs Valigura was taken out of her funeral coffin, wrapped in plastic and placed in a different casket before her cremation, which the funeral home apologised for, saying it was to protect the expensive coffin.

"Since her funeral I haven't even grieved for mum, I've been that angry," MsBolck said.


Janice Valigura nee Rothery
Janice Valigura nee Rothery was at the centre of a coffin swap scandal that went global.

The case gained international exposure with more grieving families speaking up about incidents in an unregulated industry.

Police investigated the incident, but did not lay any charges.

Mr Janetzki said the government must act to crack down on the industry as Queensland does not have any stand-alone legislation governing burials, cemeteries and funerals.

READ: Police investigate shocking 'coffin switch' claim

READ: Police reveal results of Rocky funeral home investigation

READ: Hart-felt apology after cops clear Rocky funeral director

"I have met with the Queensland Funeral Directors' Association who want to stamp out these dodgy operators but they're receiving no support from the Palaszczuk Government," MrJanetzki said while visiting Rockhampton yesterday.

"At the moment, anyone can become a funeral director with no training necessary- there is more training required to start a career in hairdressing than there is to deal with human remains."


DEVASTATED: L-R Niece Kerry Rothery and son Mick Valigura with a framed photo of Janice Valigura nee Rothery who was allegedly placed in a pine coffin by a funeral director after the family had purchased an expensive casket.
Mrs Valigura's niece Kerry Rothery and son Mick Valigura reported the funeral home to the police in January. Chris Ison ROK100118cfuneral4

Mr Janetzki has been meeting funeral directors and affected families from around the state and they have been sharing horrific behind-the-scenes reports.

Backyard embalming, coffin swapping and cremation shopping were among dozens of alleged tactics which were being used by funeral operators in Queensland, according to stories reported to MrJanetzki.

"Dodgy operators are damaging the reputation of the industry while funeral directors who care deeply for the clients are paying the price," MrJanetzki said.

Since contacting the Queensland Attorney General, Yvette D'Ath, in January, MrJanetzki said her "bureaucratic" response wouldn't suffice.

"The government is sitting on its hands and refusing to act and we need to do something about it," he said.

Mr Janetzki accused MsD'Ath of hiding behind bureaucrats.

"I would love to see her sit down with the family and many families across Queensland as I am now," he said.

In response to MrJanetzki's comments, and when asked if she would sit down with families who had contacted him, MsD'Ath said the LNP was unclear about "tighter regulations".

"Particularly when added regulations might add costs to the price of funerals," MsD'Ath said.

"Funeral directors must follow Australian Consumer Law and workplace health and safety laws. It is also an offence for a business to make a false or misleading representation."

Ms D'Ath encouraged MrJanetzki and anyone concerned their rights had been breached to contact the Office of Fair Trading or Queensland Police Service.

"In particular, if MrJanetzki has evidence of 'backyard embalming' he must go to police immediately," MrsD'Ath said.

"In addition, MrJanetzki should provide details of these allegations to the OFT. Alternatively, he can meet with me directly to hand over what evidence he has."

Of the 15,000 complaints the OFT received across all industries last year, six related to the funeral industry and mostly to insurance schemes.

"The funeral industry, like many other industries, adopts a model of self-regulation in Queensland, which includes the Queensland Funeral Industry Code of Conduct," MrsD'Ath said.

This code was released in 2013 by the LNP Government.