Home' Ballarat Enterprise : Enterprise Edition 16 Contents With parents as funeral directors,
Ballarat's Caitlin and Riley Harrison
were introduced to the concept of
death and dying at a young age.
"It's certainly something we talk about because
obviously, you can't avoid it," their dad Brian -
who opened Harrison Funerals with wife Maree
in 2006 - said.
"And they're quite intuitive, I think, in terms
of understanding what's going on and what
people are feeling," Maree added.
Today, it's even a topic which Caitlin and Riley,
now 17 and 15 respectively, regularly discuss
at the dinner table. "The kids talk about it more
than us," Brian joked.
"They're often asking 'What do you want (for
your funeral)? Do you want to be buried? What
songs are you interested in?'," Maree said.
"I think it's been an interesting process for them
in a couple of ways, like seeing how difficult it
is starting a business and how hard we have
to work to actually achieve something," Brian
"Its not just a 9 to 5 thing where at 5pm, we
leave work, go home and don't talk about it
because at home, the phone will ring and the
kids know we might get called out at 10pm to
go and transfer someone from a nursing home
or something like that."
"It's not just a job - it does impact on your
Maree's childhood trod a similar path to that
of her childrens as her father, the late Peter
Tobin, founded Peter Tobin Funerals.
"I grew up with it and it was just what Mum and
Dad did," Maree said.
"To me, it wasn't an extraordinary thing to
Yet the funeral industry was never an obvious
career choice for Maree.
"When I left school, I was a dental nurse and I
just did the odd bit of part-time work when the
kids were little," she said.
Brian's working life also started in a much
"I was in the Victorian police force and I started
doing some casual work for Maree's father and
I just liked it," Brian said.
"I think it was so different from what I did."
"One day, I was driving a limousine and a lady
said to me 'Do you do this on your day's off
to meet nice people?' and I really had never
thought about it."
"I joined the police force as a 16-year-old in a
cadet program so that was my life, it was black
and white, that was it. Then all of a sudden,
there's this whole other world out there where
there are reasonable people so that changed
"Then Maree's father offered me an opportunity
to come and work with him and the rest is
The funeral industry has also proven to be a
popular move for other former boys and girls in
blue. "It's been interesting over the years the
number of people we've met within the industry
who are ex-policemen as well," Brian said.
"A friend of ours, she's got a funeral business
in Colac and she's an ex-copper and when I
went to work in Geelong, one of the staff down
there was an ex-detective."
"I just think they're probably comfortable in the
world of dead people in that sense but they're
also comfortable around people so it's not
confronting to deal with grieving people."
So what's the secret to successfully running a
business with your other half?
"I think each of us know what our role is so we
sort of stick to that," Maree said.
"If you drove around Australia, there are lots
of small businesses like us, where husband
and wife teams operate funeral businesses,"
Brian -- who has been in the industry for more
than 25 years - said.
"Because of the demands of the on-call factor,
I think it works really well in that sense because
there are two of you. You know you can go to
the grocery store and there's still someone to
look after the phone or something as simple as
having a shower, you know someone is there
to get the phone."
"And after 25 years (of marriage), you just
learn to shut your mouth!"
Story: Chloe Biggin
Pictures: Jeremy Bannister
do us part
8 Cover Story - Harrison Funerals
something we talk
can't avoid it."
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