Process of a Traditional Burial

In Australia, a traditional burial is usually preceded by a funeral service at a chapel, church or other venue, followed generally by a short intimate gathering by the graveside. A few words are said, some music is played, and the coffin is laid to rest in the ground. Often just close family attend the burial.

After the coffin is lowered into the grave, family or friends are sometimes invited to throw flowers into the grave or place a symbolic shovel of dirt on the coffin, before leaving the grave site for the memorial celebration or wake. After the mourners have left, cemetery staff attend to cover the grave and mark the spot temporarily so that a more permanent plaque or memorial can be added in the weeks to come.

But when simplicity or cultural tradition requires, the service is still sometimes held at the graveside with mourners gathering in the open air to say prayers, recite poems and speak to the life of the person they have lost.

Burials can be ornate, elaborate affairs, with lavish floral tributes surrounding the grave site, tribute cards and memorial books or simple affairs with just a small send-off performed by a celebrant or member of the clergy.

Often where tradition or culture dictates, the deceased will be buried in a family plot or in a pre-determined section of the cemetery based on religious beliefs or cultural considerations.

In some cases, where a natural burial is preferred by the deceased or the family, the body will undergo absolute minimum preparation and may be interred in a wicker coffin or just wrapped in a sheath in a specially designated part of the cemetery in which vegetation id left as natural bushland creating a serene environment free from plaques, landscaping, and other memorial structures.

If considering burial over cremation, it may be a good idea to visit local cemeteries and pre-purchase a plot to ensure your final resting place is somewhere you are happy for your family and friends to visit. Unfussy lawn cemeteries may appeal with their simplicity and clear green expanse, while others might prefer the traditional headstones and ornate monuments that were made popular early last century.

The reasons our culture has developed its burial practices are several – from a practical standpoint, a decomposing body gives off strong odors as gases and fluids ae released while the body breaks down. In the case of a cemetery burial, these fluids are released into the surrounding Earth with site planning ensuring drainage is adequate and waterways are protected from run-off.

The ritual of burial is also believed to give a level of closure to the grieving mourners who physically witness the coffin being lowered into the ground. And while this can be a gut-wrenching experience, some psychologists believe such finality is a vehicle for progression of the grieving process.

Some religions also dictate factors such as the time from death to burial, the physical direction of the grave or the items that are added to the grave along with the coffin containing the deceased. If a loved-one passes away and you are unsure of any cultural or religious considerations, your funeral director may be able to assist based on prior experience.

The depth of burial in Australia is determined by the style of burial. In situations where a family is to be buried together, coffins may be interred at varying depths in the one grave and while this is symbolic of keeping the family members or partners together forever, it is also a practical way to save space in our rapidly-filling cemeteries as Council feel a push on available space with rising populations.

Another consideration if planning a burial is if the location will be appropriate in years to come.

Sometimes, if a loved one is buried here in Australia and the family decide to move overseas, often returning to a home country, the body may be exhumed, at significant cost, embalmed if required, and repatriated to another country where it interred once more in the new location. This is where the ‘portability’ of cremated remains becomes a logical choice, so that the deceased loved one’s remains can be kept close by in a sanitary and legal manner.

Deciding on a burial service or location requires some careful consideration and it’s always a good idea to discuss the matter with the experts – funeral directors who can answer your questions and provide comparisons on different cemeteries, costings and the special touches that will make your final resting place a fitting tribute.

The team at McCartney Family Funerals have offices across south-east Queensland and are just a phone call away on 1300 043 522 to answer any questions you may have when pre-planning your own funeral or arranging the burial or cremation of a family member or friend. Transparent pricing schedules and more information is available at

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