Conference Update! Meet Gavan Heritage…

Book Your Tickets Now! REGISTER BEFORE JULY 18 and go in the draw
for a night at Rydges on Swanston thanks to Rydges on Swanston.

In our session “It’s A Man’s World (or is it?)” you’ll hear from Gavan Heritage and Kathy Hodges and as they take part in a facilitated conversation about gender in the independent funeral industry.

Gavan has been involved with the funeral industry for most of his life. His life and funeral experience has enabled him to see many changes to the funeral industry. He is currently working in the family funeral business Heritage and Heritage Funerals with his father Robbie and sister Janet.

The company operates out of three locations: their main facility is in Wantirna; Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley has a large chapel and catering facilities; and Lilydale is a funeral arrangement office. It currently services approximately 900 to 950 families each year running five hearses and they have 32 full time and casual staff.

Growing up living at the residence attached to his family’s funeral business at Lilydale started Gavan’s immersion in all things funerals. He started working with his father Robbie and Uncle Keith at Frank Heritage and Sons, part time and during school holidays when he was 16 then starting full time as a Funeral Director’s Assistant when he was 17.

Gavan’s training was on the job. He started an embalming course and was also expected to work on funerals and do general duties (cleaning) which he did at a couple of different funeral homes thanks to his parents’ connections in the industry. The experience he gained from the companies he worked at during this time was incredible in terms of growing his perspective and understanding of funeral service, running a family business and his outlook on life in general.

Due to a promotion to arranger/conductor at the age of 19 Gavan did not complete the embalming course. This coincided with a change in the company ownership, when Le Pine Funeral Services purchased the Family Business. Continuing to work with the Le Pine Group for three and half years, Gavan took part in the Funeral Management Summer School at Melbourne University. It was a two-week live-in course run by the Australian Funeral Directors Association.

Le Pine also allowed Gavan to complete other management courses while working for them. This was a very important time for Gavan’s maturing and growth within the funeral industry.

A short break from the industry saw Gavan working with his father in property development. In 1993 Gavan and his wife PJ jointly purchased Werribee Funerals with Andrew and Janice Johnstone. They lived on site and worked at the funeral business until March 1996 when Stewart Enterprises purchased the business. As part of the sale agreement Gavan worked for Stewart Enterprises for six months to assist with the transition for the amalgamation with Werribee Funeral Services.

April 1996 saw Heritage Harper Funerals formed by Gavan, his father Robbie and Jim Harper. They purchased the three-acre site that the business currently operates from in Wantirna. Constructing the facility as owner builders and working at growing the new business, Robbie’s property development skills came in to play while under construction.

Everything Gavan and his family had was put into the business, so his wife, two children, dog and cat moved in with his parents. Robbie and Gavan shared a company car and they worked really hard for the next five years. While under construction the new business did 57 services and opened the Wantirna Chapel in June of 1997. In their first trading year they delivered 199 services and the second year …201. From then until now they have had growth almost every year. Jim Harper retired in 2003 and the business then continued as Heritage and Heritage.

In 2007 Gavan completed the FIDA (Tobin Bros) embalming course. He had another break from the industry between March 2014 to March 2017. While away from the funeral industry Gavan drove and operated a bin hook truck for a waste company and was involved with the safety committee as a OH&S Rep.

Returning to Heritage and Heritage in April of 2017, Gavan continues to run the company with Robbie , Janet, their management team and a really committed group of people (including Gavan’s son Lachlan).

While he’s had many changes during his career in funeral service, Gavan still has an absolute love and passion for doing the right thing by his client families. This comes from a history of being involved with so many wonderful people that have the exact same drive to assist and look after families at one of the most difficult times in their lives. The main influences in his life with respect to funeral service have been father Robbie, uncle Keith and Lindsay Lancaster who was Robbie and Keith’s General Manager when Gavan entered the funeral industry. Lindsay became not only a wonderful mentor to Gavan but a great friend to the whole Heritage Family.

Gavan has a beautiful family that he is incredibly proud of. He believes he works in a truly unique and amazingly rewarding industry, which makes him appreciate some of the most simple elements of life.


The 2019 Annual AIFP Conference | August 10th, 2019

Join us at Rydges on Swanston, 701 Swanston Street, Carlton, Victoria.

Make sure you’ve put the date in your calendar. Saturday 10th August, 2019

8am is when Registration and the Exhibition Hall open

9am Conference Day Commences

5pm Charity Networking Pre-Dinner Drinks

7pm Dinner and Dancing

Book Your Tickets Now! REGISTER BEFORE JULY 18 and go in the draw
for a night at Rydges on Swanston thanks to Rydges on Swanston.

This year’s conference theme is all about pursuing passions in death care. This year we are offering a program to engage experienced, new and potential independent funeral professionals and the extensive range of allied services that support the industry in any way shape and form.

Conference Package for AIFP Members: $330

Conference Package for Non-Members : $450
(includes annual membership fee to June 30 2020*)

Dinner, Live Band and Dancing Only: $130

The Conference Package includes:

  • Access to the Exhibition Space
  • All conference sessions
  • Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea
  • Pre-Dinner Networking Drinks
  • Three Course Dinner and Drinks
  • Dancing with a LIVE band – The Sour Grapes


* a one-time offer, for first-time members only and subject to approval

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