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By Bec Lyons of Solace End of Life Services and the Natural Death Advocacy Network
A home funeral is possible in Tasmania. A person is required to register the death and generally to have completed the disposition of the body within 30 days. A home funeral can be where you live, but it does not have to be.
FAMILY LED FUNERALS
If your person dies at home and a doctor agrees to complete a ‘Medical Cause of Death Certificate’ (MCOD), your person can stay at home. If the death occurs outside the home and a doctor agrees to complete a MCOD, your person can be transported home once either a ‘declaration of life extinct’ (DOLE) form or a MCOD is complete. If it is a DOLE form, the doctor will then complete the MCOD within 48 hours.
Whether you are at home with your person or spending time with them at their place of death, e.g., a nursing home, you are able to provide the after-death care for your person, washing and dressing, shrouding or encoffining them, etc. If at home, you can keep your person with you in your home for several days. In Tasmania, there is no prescribed length of time. General consensus in the home funeral movement suggests that depending on the manner of death, 3-5 days is a reasonable time to keep a body at home without any outward signs of decomposition being present.
Sometimes, a family may want to spend time with their person but not want to conduct the logistical and administrative functions or the hands-on care of their loved one. All of this is possible. It is important to note that families and communities can be involved in all of these processes as little or as much as they feel comfortable.
There is a requirement under Tasmanian Burial and Cremation Regulations 2015 to maintain the temperature of the body at 5 degrees Celsius or lower. This is perfectly possible in a home setting and there are various options available to do so. The use of a cooling bed or blanket, a cuddle cot for a child, ice packs, dry ice or Techniice in conjunction with portable air conditioners where necessary to assist in keeping room temperature cool are all options available to Tasmanians. If this cool temperature is maintained, then you are not required to place the care of your loved one into the hands of a mortuary or into refrigeration.
You will be required to register the death with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This and the Application for Search (which produces the Record of Death for you) can be completed and lodged at Service Tasmania. You will also be required to complete a Burial and Cremation Permit (which may be available to you from the Crematorium Management) and then to make a booking for either burial or cremation and eventually transport the body to that place.
Regardless of how much time you would like to spend with your person or the type of care you would like to give, there are home funeral friendly funeral directors in Tasmania willing to work with you in a flexible way to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
BURIAL AND CREMATION IN TASMANIA
One of the choices people are often faced with when planning their end of life, or indeed making the funeral arrangements for a loved one, is a choice between burial and cremation. Traditionally, this has always been done in a coffin, however, that isn’t a requirement. There is also the option of shroud burial or shroud cremation.
In general, cremation can be a cost effective option compared to a burial, however, that is not the only consideration; location, memorialisation wishes and personal preference will play a role in the decision making.
In Tasmania, many funeral homes have their own cremation facilities. Families are able to deal with them directly to organise a cremation for their person, even if they want to do the ceremony themselves without using a funeral director for the service.
There is specific paperwork required before a cremation can occur. You are able to complete this yourself or through the assistance of a funeral home. The management of a crematorium must be able to be satisfied with the identity of the deceased. They must have the signed Cremation Permit and the coffin or shroud bearer needs to display the name of the deceased in the form of a name plate – in all cases the management must be certain there are no discrepancies.
It is of particular note that an independent doctor who is not a relative of the deceased and who has never treated the deceased is required to sight the body and sign a declaration and consent for the cremation to take place. Not all doctors may choose to do this and those that do may charge a fee. The management of your chosen crematorium is able to organise this for you; however, any doctor in Tasmania, specialist or general practitioner, is able to sign the form as long as they fit the requirements. In signing, they are required to take responsibility that the identification of the deceased is correct and all other documentation is in order and correct.
A family can request to be present to witness the cremation process. It is up to the discretion of the management, however the Burial and Cremation Act 2019 in Division 2, 81(2) does stipulate that: “A crematorium manager must permit a representative of any religious or cultural group to exercise any religious or cultural practices in connection with the cremation of human remains without any hindrance or disturbance by the crematorium manager or any other person.”
For a very long time, burials were the only available, and for many people, viable disposal option when someone died. In some places, it still is. The notion of burial was to return the body to the earth. Over time, different methods have been employed in relation to burial practices. The use of solid and hardwood coffins, vaults and the introduction of embalming for preservation along with many other innovations have seen the landscape of burial and the thought around it develop into a more modern approach to laying a person to rest.
When choosing burial in Tasmania, a person or their family is able to organise the entire process, whether the burial is on private land or in a cemetery. They can choose the site, organise the digging and the following memorialisation they would like as long as it is in line with the guidelines of the cemetery management and/or council regulations.
No matter the choice made, there will be considerations to take care of the final disposal – some legislative, and others procedural and specific to the place you have chosen. For example, if you book a regional cemetery, you may also be required to contact a Grave Digger (if you are not allowed or do not want to dig the grave yourself) and some cemeteries will require a booking form or the provision of a burial permit before the actual burial takes place. Communication is key here; making contact with your chosen cemetery and finding out their rules will allow you to negotiate exactly what you would like to do.
It is also worth noting that the requirements for burial on private land vary slightly between local councils, but if those requirements can be filled then permission can be obtained. It is advisable to contact your local council well ahead of time to find out what you need to do and start making those preparations.
COFFINS IN TASMANIA
The issue of coffins is an important one. Often the coffin is quite a considerable portion of the cost of a contemporary funeral. After the Funeral Home’s professional fees, it can be the next most expensive single item and there are many options that can be relatively unknown to the general public. There is not as much regulation around the use of coffins as the general public is often led to believe, for instance:
There is no regulation suggesting that a coffin or casket must be purchased from a Funeral Director;
There is no specification regarding the thickness of the wood;
A coffin is not a legal requirement for a burial or cremation;
Coffins are able to be reused if they can be cleaned in between use; and
A coffin or casket may be purchased from an independent coffin or casket designer/producer or supplier, in which case, it is usually produced to comply with regulation requirements.
A person is able to make their own coffin or a family can make one for their loved one. To this end, there are two coffin clubs in Tasmania – one in the north and one in the south – both of which support people through the process of making a coffin. Again, it needs to comply with regulation requirements. The manager of a crematorium has the right to refuse a coffin supplied by a family if they feel it may damage their equipment or be injurious to public health and safety. In relation to the construction of a coffin, the requirements are relatively simple. The coffin must have an impervious lining and be of sufficiently robust construction to enable the remains to be disposed of in accordance with the Act.
Another thing to note is that a nameplate is required to be on a coffin at all times, stating the family name and at least one given name of the deceased. This should correspond with the name on the deceased’s identification tag on their body.
TRANSPORTING THE DEAD IN TASMANIA
When someone dies in Tasmania, there is often a requirement for that person to be transported from the place of death to somewhere else. Generally, this will be to the family home or a funeral home. The family of that person is able to carry out that transport in a private vehicle if they wish. While logistically challenging, it is perfectly legal. The standard of transport should be such that it maintains the dignity of those remains i.e., they are not able to be seen while being transported.
To transport the body of a deceased, there is a requirement that either a Medical Cause of Death Certificate or a Life Extinct Certificate have already been completed and that the paperwork travel with the deceased. The deceased should also have the appropriate identification.
According to the Burial and Cremation Regulations 2015 –
“A person who is transporting human remains to any place or premises must place the human remains in a coffin, container, or tray, that is capable of preventing the escape of any bodily discharges, contaminants or infectious materials.”
If it is a regulated business who is called to do the transport, there are further restrictions in relation to the vehicle that do not apply to a family.
A family is also able to transport their person to the place of ceremony or to a cemetery. When it comes to transportation to a crematorium, however, this should be done in conjunction and with the permission of the crematorium management as the Burial and Cremation Regulations 2015 does stipulate in section 53 of the legislation that as part of the identification process:
“(b). the coffin containing the deceased person has come from the premises of a prescribed business.”
This means that you can work with a home funeral friendly funeral director who will transport your person to their premises, or you need their agreement to be able to transport your person to them yourself.
Shrouding is the process of cocooning a person’s body in cloth. In Tasmania, there is a requirement to use four layers of material. Shrouding can be used regardless of a person’s choice of burial or cremation. It eliminates the cost of expensive coffins and avoids the burying or burning of veneered particleboard or solid wood coffins, thereby reducing the environmental impact as well.
The idea and practice of Shrouded Cremation are old, but it is relatively new to Tasmania. Shrouded cremation is perfectly legal and any crematorium in Tasmania is able to make their own policy decisions about whether or not they will offer this as a service.
If the body is the subject of a Shroud Burial or Cremation, then it is possible to transport that body wrapped in a Shroud and placed on a Shroud Bearer, which is a tray designed for that purpose – as long as it meets the legislative requirements already discussed. A Shroud Bearer constructed of natural materials can be placed in the ground as part of the Natural Burial. If a cremation is the choice, then the shroud bearer will be cremated along with the body.
FLOWCHART OF REQUIRED PAPERWORK - TASMANIA
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