The A – Z Guide Of CREMATION

Hindu Holy Man

My forebearers were involved in some of the early cremations on the cremation pyres of the Ballarat goldfields in the 1800s. Much has changed in the way we cremate and societies views on it.

Today, cremation accounts for almost 60% of all disposition in Victoria (Births Death Marriages Victoria July 2020 – September 2020). With so many people choosing cremation over burial, How much do we really know what happens behind the scenes?

In Victoria, all crematoriums must be on cemetery land, and all cemeteries are on crown land, so unlike other states and other countries, Victoria does not have private crematoria. In states and countries that do have private cremation, there is a significant difference in fees. In the report commissioned by the Victorian Government “Victorian Cremation Industry Viability” by Marsden Jacob Associates 2004, “the cremation price is a small proportion of the overall cost to the bereaved and is unlikely to affect the burial/cremation decision. The bereaved are generally more concerned with the total package price.” This would seem to contradict what has occurred to fees in a market where private operators exist.

With an increasing number of funeral operators offering low cost , direct or unattended services the cremation cost can account for more than 50% of the overall fees.

So how do these private crematorium function?

In most place throughout the world, the crematorium is located in the rear of the funeral home and operated by the funeral director, Fees can be up to 50% lower than those currently charged by public crematoria.

How do most people see cremation?

People on a regular basis tell me how they have been into the crematorium and witnessed the cremation. While this is possible most mourners will only get as close as the crematorium chapel. Most crematoria in Victoria have chapels and function areas that are separate from the crematorium. Mourners will normally attend the chapel for the service and at the conclusion, the funeral the coffin turn from view or is lowered out of sight. Some cremators are located directly behind the chapels. The coffin is removed from the catafalque (the lowering device) and will await cremation. In other instance, the coffin is loaded into a vehicle and transported a few hundred metres to the crematorium building. the cremation may occur immediately but in some case will occur the following day.

Witnessing Cremation

With an increasing number of Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist families in Melbourne, the cultural requirement to witness the cremation has increased and more families are requesting this option. Don’t be surprised, that the crematorium charges a fee for families to witness the cremation of their loved one.

In many countries that our new Australians come from, the service would often be held in front of the cremation chamber. In Melbourne, small numbers of the family either watch the cremation on a video screen in an adjoining room or witness the coffin entering the cremator behind a glass window. The process for families is quick. The coffin is loaded onto a special device that will discharge the coffin into the cremator. The doors of the cremators remain closed until that family is ready. Once settled, the family will indicate to the cremation operator to proceed. The door slides up and the coffin is quickly injected into the cremator. The door is quickly closed. Families will leave after this. The whole process may take less than a minute.

The cremation itself takes 1-2 hours.

Ashes or cremated remains

The terms ashes tend to infer the cremated remains are like cinder, very light and like powder, however, most people are surprised when the cremated remains are returned. Ashes are skeletal remains and the average cremated remains urn will weigh approximately 3kg. Typically remains will be ready for collection within 48 hours after cremation.

Is the coffin cremated or reused?

Absolutely not. The coffin as you see it is not opened once entered the crematorium building.

Do I need to use a coffin at all for cremation?

While some crematorium now accepts non-coffin cremation the deceased still needs to enter the crematorium in a sealed container and be on a solid base. The body is usually wrapped in a cotton shrouds similar to the way Muslims would bury their loved ones and secured to a plantation pine cremation bearer. Some feel this is a good environmental option.

No Coffin Cremation using a cremation bearer

What can I place in the coffin?

Unlike burial, there are restrictions what you can place in a coffin for cremation. Batteries are definitely not to be included (due to the possibility of explosions) and the funeral director will sign a declaration that any pacemakers have been removed. Excessive plastics should be avoided and bottles are now on the band list due to effect they can have on cremated remains. Bodies can be dressed as normal.

Can I use a cardboard coffin?

Yes, there is special cardboard coffins known as Bio board.

You can learn more about the bio board here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwA4pp9vLTQ&t=1s

Do I need to have a service with the cremation?

No, many people are choosing to have a direct or unattended cremation. The body and coffin are taken directly to the crematorium without anyone attending. Many families choose to have some other celebration of life event, from a very private personal scattering of cremated remains in meaningful locations with a few people, to large elaborate and often noisy lunches. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to celebrating a life, just relevant and meaningful events. So the choices are all yours to make

Can we seperate cremated remains for different members of our family?

Yes, just ask your funeral director and he will arrange this for you.

Cremation Urns, Jewellery, Scattering tubes

There is a large range of options open to families to choose from in deciding with what to do with cremated remains. There are literally thousands of different types of cremation urns, made from every conceivable material. From mass produced urns to individual handcrafted works of art, environmental and bio degradable urns are also available. Cremation jewellery varies from small metal pendants that can be place on a necklace to Diamonds made from cremated remains and Italian glass infused with remains all made into beautiful jewellery.

Robert Nelson is a 5th generation funeral director and is Managing Director of Robert Nelson Funerals, based in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia. Should you have any questions about cremation please do not hesitate to contact me. (03) 9532 2111,

Meaningful Funerals

Cremated remains scattered by fireworks

So what does it mean to have a meaningful funeral?

Put simply, the funeral has to be relevant to you. As with all milestones in life, such as weddings, birthdays, family events, etc, people choose to celebrate these in ways that have meaning and relevance to them. Funerals are no different. Funerals are a celebration of life, where we can reflect on a persons life lived.

Traditionally, funerals were centred around the church and religion, just as they were with weddings. The funerals were often very similar as dictated from the church’s funeral rites.  However, today things have changed. Increasingly more families and mourner’s find little relevance in the traditional funeral service. It has often been heard from some mourners they wonder if indeed they are at the right funeral service as the service bears not reflection on the life of the deceased and subsequently mourners don’t connect with the service.

So how are Australian families making more meaningful funerals and what are the types of things that are being incorporated into a funeral or the events surrounding it.

Over the past decade there has been a increase in the amount off audio visual productions at funerals, wether it be photographic  montages with selected video and relevant music, to photographic or display boards of images of the deceased life. These simple touches bring relevance and meaning to mourners in attendance as the images are something they can relate to and will spur on strong memories of the person they knew and remembered.  Services can be recorded and or live streamed to the internet for people that may not be able to travel to the service.

A few years ago I interviewed and filmed a lovely lady and asked question about her life and growing up. A few years later at her funeral, her images and voice mixed with archival photos gave her the opportunity to talk about her life, in her words,  it was personal and touching.

Todays funeral tributes have gone high tech

Families have traditionally invited people back to their homes after a funeral for refreshments. As homes have got smaller and peoples lives busier,  these functions are now often held elsewhere. Todays progressive cemeteries have high quality function rooms and beautiful catering. Many families are using there facilities or those of their sports clubs for both the funeral, the memorial service and or refreshments. These have great benefits as it places mourners at ease in their more familiar surrounds.

Indeed many families are finding more relevance and meaning at these informal refreshments functions, than they are at the funeral services and subsequently we are seeing increasingly more families choose to have a cremation without any attendance and memorial service held afterwards in their favourite location.

Its not only the funeral service itself that has seen significant change, but the way and manner in which people are choosing to deal with cremated remains. Whilst traditional memorialisation is still popular, families are choosing to say there final farewell in different ways.

Ashes to Ashes, offers a unique yet personal way to commemorate the loss of a loved one by scattering their ashes high in the sky by way of a beautiful and spectacular fireworks display. The brain child of Sydney born pyrotechnic Craig Hull,  Craig believes peoples sadness and grief are replaced by wonderment and celebration as the journey towards closure begins.

Every heard of someone as referred to as a rough diamond? Well now its possible to turn them into a beautiful one, literally. An Australian based company can now turn cremated remains into diamonds. Known as “Cremation Diamonds” the process takes anywhere from 3 -8 months.

Cremation diamonds

Now whilst some of these new ways of remembrance and meaning may not be your cup of tea, the most significant change has been the acceptance of allowing those in mourning to choose to do things that have relevance and meaning to them. Funeral options.

So next time you’re in a position to talk to family about what you want, tell them, they might be surprised!

As for me, I want to go sky high, with my cremated remains scattered over the start line at the yacht club, while my friends watch on and celebrate on the balcony with a cold beer and remember me with love, laughter and life.

Robert Nelson has listened and worked with clients since 1983 and created ceremonies that are designed around the needs and desires of grieving families. Robert Nelson Funerals, knowledge, experience and understanding makes him the preferred choice for Melbourne families.

For more information on any of these services, please contact Robert Nelson at robert@robertnelsonfunerals.com.au or ph (03) 9532 2111