Approaches to Death, Funeral Rites and Memorialisation in Contemporary Australia: Changes and Continuities
reportposted on 10.11.2020, 22:52 by Gil-Soo Han, Helen Forbes-Mewett, Wilfred Wang
Cemeteries in Victoria were planned and designed 150 years ago, without any major developments taking place since. Large numbers of baby-boomers, as well as migrants of a similar age, are now at a stage where end-of-life plans come into view. However, their needs of funeral rites require reassessment due to a significantly different socio-cultural context where social norms are shifting and environmental resources are scarce. Considering the aging population and the contexts of ‘religion, space and economic rationalisation’, the new cultural differences and changing religious affiliations are likely to be reflected on public preferences in relation to funeral rites.
Australia’s population was 24,385,600 as at December 2016, an increase of 372,800 since December 2015 (ABS 2017). Migration has contributed significantly to this increase with Victoria experiencing the largest level of growth (2.4%). Migrant increases have led to religious shifts that were particularly noticeable in Melbourne, Victoria. There is an urgent need to re-engage with cemetery planning for the immediate future and beyond. Understanding contemporary, and future, funeral needs of a culturally diverse population in Australia is of critical importance to government and the funeral industry. Yet, we are not informed of a systematic appreciation of these changes and their implications for future planning and design of cemeteries. With increasingly limited access to usable land suitable for burial practices – particularly in metropolitan areas – future planning must consider the funeral rites of both the existing aging population and incoming migrant groups most likely to make end of life choices in the coming decades.
This study focuses on three specific groups that were identified in consultation with our partner organisations (Cemeteries and Crematoria Regulation Unit and Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust) as most in need of understanding their specific characteristics in terms of funeral rites. The three groups include: Baby Boomers, Christians, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse population.