Funeral traditions in Australia have changed a lot. From the community-centred grieving of Indigenous Australians to contemporary eco-burials, the complicated history of this country is reflected in its many funeral customs.
A more positive approach in recent years to celebrating life and dealing with grief is actually a return to pre-WW1 times; a shift away from the hand-off funerals that focused solely on honouring the deceased in a rigid manner.
Overview of Funeral Traditions in Australia
The history of funerals in Australia starts, of course, with Aboriginal culture. Indigenous Australian communities hold a shared belief in an afterlife amid varied approaches to ceremonies and traditions.
Through the 1800’s a Christian approach toward death and traditional burials prevailed, but post WW1 cremation began to grow as an affordable funeral option.
Over the last 150 years funerals have changed a lot, with self-expression and progressive takes on grief becoming commonplace.
Pre-Colonial Funeral Traditions of Indigenous Australians
Aboriginal funerals are culturally important due to a shared belief in the afterlife, with ceremonies centred around helping the deceased’s spirit return safely to their ancestral home.
While there are many variations on Indigenous funeral traditions, it’s typical for communities to come together in shared grief for both the mourning period, funeral, and burial.
One strong tradition to note is it’s culturally inappropriate to show images or speak the name of the deceased.
Arrival of the British: Imported Funeral Traditions
From the 1800’s to the end of Victorian times, Christian beliefs led the charge on funeral traditions. Rites and body preparation were generally done domestically as many people died at home, with embalming becoming more popular in the 1900’s.
WW1 and WW2 had a huge impact on the history of funerals in Australia, with no body or grave to visit, and cremations grew as death became more privatised and medicalised.
Attitudes began to shift back to a more positive view of life and death in the 1960’s, but while grieving practices were changing, funerals remained a conservative affair until the 1990’s.
Current Funeral Traditions in Australia (And What The Future May Hold)
Cremations began to surpass traditional burials in popularity in the 1990’s, helped by the Catholic Church’s approval. Individualisation was also growing with funeral homes gradually becoming more flexible in their services and expertise.
This more positive approach in recent years to celebrating life and dealing with grief is a return to pre-WW1 times; a shift away from rigid funerals focused on honouring the deceased.
Today funeral services reflect the beliefs and preferences of the individual. From eco-friendly burials and unique display urns to live streamed services and culturally-specific ceremonies from around the world, funerals of the future look to be one-of-a-kind.
Hetherington Caters To A Rich Range Of Australian Funeral Customs
Hetherington Funerals are proud to cater to all cultural customs and traditions and provider of coffins in perth. An experienced and compassionate team arranges ceremonies for all communities within this diverse country, while paying respect to the varied history of funerals in Australia.
Get in touch today to arrange a cultural funeral ceremony, or call (08) 9459 2846 now to request a quote.