ABC Radio Darwin By Mark Rigby
Cemetery burial and cremation are how most people are laid to rest — for good reason. (ABC News: Gregory Nelson) A funeral director explains how the death industry works.
If you're looking to leave this world in a flaming ship pushed out to sea or being left to the vultures in a sky burial, you will need to think again.
In the Northern Territory, like all other Australian states and territories, there are only two ways a body can be legally disposed of — burial or cremation.
While the definition of cremation is to consume by fire, you cannot have a funeral pyre erected in the back paddock for your body to be burned a la Game Of Thrones.
Viking-style cremation is not allowed in Australia. Robert Murphy, a funeral director with more than 21 years' experience, said cremations in the NT could only take place in crematoria managed by the Cemeteries Act.
"In regards to funeral pyres, they're considered a bit ancient and old fashioned," he said.
"Government regulations basically say that people who have passed away have to be, for want of a better word, disposed of in a dignified manner."
Put plainly, if your dying wish is to be burned on a pyre, your family will have to break the law and face up to three years in prison to fulfil it.
Can I be buried at home?
The laws that determine what is and is not allowed when it comes to being buried are not quite as black and white.
Section 21 of the NT Cemeteries Act states the body of a deceased person can only be buried in a cemetery.
But under certain circumstances, families can apply to the minister for Housing and Community Development to bury a family member elsewhere.
Families can ask to have someone buried away from a cemetery in certain circumstances.
To be granted, the family must demonstrate a genuine cultural association between the deceased and the proposed burial site.
In the case of a family property, the site must also be on a parcel of land larger than five hectares, cannot be near a watercourse or within a flood-prone area and not within 100 metres of a source of potable water.
"Once all of that's been checked out and everything's OK, then it's fine — a lot of families do it," Mr Murphy said.
What about my ashes?
If your family does not own a large property for you to be buried on and you are not against cremation, there are no laws that control what is done with your ashes.
Ashes can be scattered anywhere, but check the wind first
"Once the ashes come back to the family, they are quite welcome to do anything they like with them," Mr Murphy said.
"A lot of people keep them, some people inter them into the walls or their gardens, some people scatter them.
"And you can scatter ashes anywhere; out at sea, on the deceased's favourite golf course, at their local fishing spot — anywhere."
What can I take with me?
There are very few stipulations about what possessions or items you can and cannot be buried or cremated with.
"The only thing you can't put in a coffin is anything dangerous, anything that can explode or anything chemical-based that could harm the environment," Mr Murphy said.
"With cremation, most crematoria ask the same sort of thing; nothing that can explode or cause damage, and they usually say no glass because that can cause damage to the crematorium over time."
"But there is one thing for people with pacemakers — we have to take them out before cremation because they can explode."
So if you wish to be buried in a beanie or cremated in a cravat, all you need do is make sure your family are aware — and do not let them forget the pacemaker.
Topics: death, laws, family, rights, human-interest, darwin-0800