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SMCT Passion Award winner: Helen Tuton

15 August 2022
SMCT Passion Award winner: Helen Tuton

What is your role at SMCT?

I am one of the Horticulture Operations Leaders at SMCT. I was lucky enough to spend the last 12 months overseeing the talented horticulture team at our magnificent multi-sites (Cheltenham Memorial Park, St Kilda Cemetery, Brighton General Cemetery and Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery), and have just recently transitioned over to join the Operations team at Springvale Botanical Cemetery (SBC) in the same role. While I am new to SBC, I am looking forward to working with the crew here and sinking my teeth into the high-class horticulture that this site is so well known for.

You were the recipient of a passion award, recognising all the ways you go above and beyond in your role with energy and enthusiasm. Can you tell us about what drives your passion at SMCT?

Simply put, my passion is horticulture. I have worked in the horticultural industry in one way or another for the last 30 years, a large part of that being in the public open space environment. For me, being able to present a site like those at SMCT to the highest standard for our visiting public is a genuine privilege. From our turf to our trees (and everything in between), horticulture is what makes all our sites such unique and special places for people to visit, spend time and reflect. Being able to lead our great teams in maintaining and improving these assets is what drives me. It’s about the experience we can offer and ensuring that both the business, stakeholders and customers know just how integral our horticulture is to the overall feel and amenity of these places of remembrance.

What is one project/team activity that you have enjoyed being a part of over the last 12 months?

It’s hard to pick just one project! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the Brighton Cemetorians group. We got to see their long-held vision realised, with great results, of honouring returned service people interred at Brighton General Cemetery with the installation of Australian flags for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day annually. To be honest, the thing I have enjoyed the most is working with the multi-sites horticulture team and being able to undertake not just the day-to-day activities with this great group, but identifying and acting upon opportunities for horticultural uplift projects across the older sites (including large scale rose underplanting and the installation of Australian native woody meadows), which customers, team members and stakeholders have responded really positively to – that sort of feedback on horticultural works really does mean a lot, and makes it all worthwhile!

Your one wish for the next 12 months is...

My first wish is to work out where all the lawns and gardens are at Springvale Botanical Cemetery! But seriously, my wish is continuing to be involved in horticultural uplift programs across our sites, encouraging all our talented horticultural team members to continue to come forward with ideas, concepts, projects and proposals and working with our teams and leaders to ensure that all our horticulture across all of our sites is celebrated and valued in the same way our built assets are.

What's something you wish everyone knew about working at SMCT or within the cemeteries industry?

I wish people knew that cemeteries are not just spaces for mourning. They can be (and are) places for quiet reflection, passive recreation, historic discovery, citizen science, habitat havens (for flora and fauna) and so much more. For me, cemeteries are underappreciated public open spaces and something to be celebrated and explored.

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