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  • Decide on who will be the primary contact person. Is there someone who can be a single point of contact and manage communication with multiple health and support personnel. A substitute decision maker is ideally placed to take on this role, or someone that is organised and can stay calm and steady. Multiple communications in multiple directions can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and confusion as events unfold. An EOL doula can support this person so they don’t get overwhelmed.​

  • Order coffin/casket/shroud bearer – if there is a particular one that you would like to use. A holistic funeral director might be willing to order one on your behalf.

  • Make a coffin/casket/shroud bearer – time is needed to gather materials, to physically build and possibly have approved as suitable. By state law it must be lined for transport.

  • It is a legal requirement for the coffin/casket/shroud to have two identification plates (wooden or brass) with the person’s FULL NAME engraved, Date of Birth (DOB) and Date of Death (DOD). One is attached to the coffin or shroud, one stays with the person throughout the process of disposal. Some crematoriums use the second plate outside the retort during a cremation, and then return it with the ashes. Details & spelling must exactly match documented details as these are cross checked.

  • For burial or interment in a cemetery, interment rights to a burial plot or a plot for ashes can be reserved prior to death. Local councils have jurisdiction over cemeteries, so make contact with the local cemeteries officer and develop a relationship with them ahead of time. Ask for them by name so you can talk to them directly. There are fees attached.

  • If you want to keep your person at home/place you will need to think about and arrange cooling – e.g., ice (can freeze water in plastic water bottles or ‘hot water bottles’), hire a cold plate or cooling blanket (limited availability), air cooler/conditioning etc. Techni-ice works well and will stay frozen much longer than regular ice. Wrap in pillowcases and place under the head, two over the front of the torso, two behind the torso. Then wrap the person in a sleeping bag or blanket to trap the cold. Change every 4 hours.​

  • If a family/community would like to take on the role and responsibilities of the funeral in a cemetery, or hold a memorial in a council owned reserve, the easiest way is to have a conversation with the above-mentioned cemetery officer at the local council. They will guide you through the relevant paperwork. There are fees attached. They might insist that the body is transported in a suitable vehicle in public areas, and remains covered. A funeral celebrant can guide you through the ceremonial structure of a funeral, or you can design it totally yourself.

  • If the person is going to be buried on a rural holding, check local council by-laws. The council will want written approval from the land-owner, and other relevant paperwork. They will also ask for exact GPS coordinates of the site. The State laws require GPS coordinates, and that the person is buried at least 20m away from any waterway or structure. Graves must be at least 1m deep. If you find a sympathetic, holistic funeral director who is registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages, they can take the stress of paperwork off your hands and fulfill the legal requirement with BDM, easily and quickly. (Otherwise be prepared to go down a lot of rabbit holes and meet up with some resistance.)

  • If your person is likely to die in a care facility/hospital/hospice and you would like to bring them home once death occurs, inform staff that this is your plan well ahead of time. You can have a body taken home after death in a facility. Embalming is not required.


  • The doctor who was responsible for the medical care of a person before their death or who examines the person after death, must complete and sign a ‘doctors certificate of cause of death’ - DCCD. This certificate must be issued within 48 hours after the person's death and given to the funeral director or contact person arranging the funeral service.

  • If the person has died at home, they can stay home after death with techni-ice (or cold plate, or cooling blanket) and air conditioning for up to 5 days but most families find that they are ready to let their person go within 3 days. In summer, air-conditioning in the room is critical.

  • If the person has died in a hospital or other facility - To reduce stress on the family, you can arrange transport home with a holistic funeral director, or do it yourself in a suitable vehicle. Keep in mind that the hospital will place the person in a body bag, which can all feel very ‘industrial’ and confronting.  Depending on distance, the body will need to be kept cool during transport (Techni-ice) and will need to be held in a container that is lined to prevent body fluids from leaking out into the vehicle. This is a state legislation requirement. The DCCD, ID, and Partial Certificate of Death must accompany the body. The executor (or funeral director) takes responsibility for these. Also, the care facility/hospital/hospice may ask you to sign a register before you take the body – this is what the funeral director would usually sign.

  • If your person is with the coroner, they can be released to the family but again, weigh up the stress of chasing paperwork with the ease of asking a holistic funeral director to pick them up and bring them home to you. If an autopsy has happened, the person will have scars but washing and dressing the body can be done at home if the family wishes. An EOL doula can offer support and guidance at this time, as it can be an opportunity for natural grieving and healing to happen after the shock and trauma of an unexpected and sudden death.

  • It is possible to choose to keep your person at home and then arrange a funeral director to do a direct cremation, or transport the person from home to the cemetery for burial. Tell the funeral director you’ll contact them when you’re ready.

  • The family/community can take on the role of the funeral director but the process is complicated as the system is set up for funeral directors who are registered with BDM. It’s possible and achievable but weigh up whether the extra burden to navigate the forms and paperwork is worth it. If you can find a holistic funeral director who listens and is prepared to support you with your wishes, this would be a good compromise as it really will ease the burden of trying to do everything yourself.

Some cultures (Aboriginal, Maori, Tongan) might hold funerals weeks after death due to finances and suitable times for family/community gatherings. This may differ through each community depending on distances.



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