WHEN Simon Mulqueen began his funeral industry career hardly anyone was cremated, nearly every service was held in a church and people were expected to sing hymns.
The Bendigo Funerals director marked his 40th year in the industry on Tuesday.
"A lot has happened and a lot has changed in that 40 years," Mr Mulqueen said.
"Funerals themselves have changed, society's changed and expectations have changed."
Many more funerals are now held in funeral chapels rather than churches and are accompanied by contemporary music, Mr Mulqueen said.
Many people are also opting to finance them through pre-paid funeral packages, he said.
The industry has also been changed by governments - and not always for the better - Mr Mulqueen said.
Mr Mulqueen was part of concerted efforts to stop loved ones being forced to pay a 10 per cent goods and services tax on funeral costs.
"The GST's introduction in 2000 had a huge impact on the industry. A funeral at the moment might cost anywhere between $5000 and $10,000 as a rule, so the GST component is substantial," he said.
"I remember writing to all government members and senators trying to get a funeral industry exemption from GST because of the impact it was going to have on families at a time of grief.
"We estimated that if the government exempted the funeral industry it would have cost the government $65 million, nationally, which was relatively insignificant.
"We did what we could to try to fight for the exemption but we were pretty much ignored by the government."
Mr Mulqueen began his career at Mulqueen and Sons, the business his great-grandfather founded in the 1930s, before running a business in Ballarat.
He moved back to Bendigo in 2012 to start Bendigo Funerals.
"That was probably the biggest highlight, for me. When I started in 1980 I would never have thought I would be out operating my own business as a funeral director," he said.
Other high points included his role as president of the National Funeral Directors Association and being part of a Victorian ministerial advisory council on the industry and incoming laws.