The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Sea Dumping Act) regulates burials at sea in Australia.
Burials at sea—loaded in Australia or performed from an Australian vessel or aircraft—require a permit.
The permit application form must be completed and sent with a copy of the death certificate and the application fee. While our statutory timeframes apply, we aim to process se burial applications within 3-4 working days. Additional approvals may be required under relevant state or territory law. Check your state’s environment website to see if additional approvals are required in your jurisdiction.
Scattering of ashes at sea does not constitute burial at sea and does not require a permit under the Sea Dumping Act.
Reasons for applying
An application for a permit to perform a burial at sea requires that individuals provide a reason for requesting a burial at sea. Reasons include having a demonstrated connection to the sea such as for retired or active navy personnel, fishermen or mariners.
While this is a requirement of the application, permits can still be granted to individuals that do not have a demonstrated connection to the sea. Individuals that may wish to be buried at sea should make their wishes (and the reasons for their wishes) known within their will, as well as notifying family and loved ones. This will allow the appropriate person to request a sea burial on their behalf.
We recommend that you contact the department prior to submitting an application to ensure a timely outcome.
A permit application must be submitted with:
- a completed burial at sea - Permit application form
- a medical certificate of death, or Coroner’s order for burial, or order authorising the disposal of a body
- payment of the permit application fee of $1675.
Processing is most efficient when application forms are submitted complete with payment and supporting documentation. Contact details for the application should be up to date in case correspondence is required.
Sea burials are only permitted in waters with a depth greater than 3000 metres. Sea burial sites must not conflict with other uses of the sea, such as trawling/fishing grounds. Due to these constraints, sea burial sites are usually located a long distance offshore. This can create logistical challenges in arranging the burial.
While not compulsory, it is recommended that the person arranging the sea burial contact a funeral home to manage the logistics. Another option is to contact a local charter operator who may be able to provide advice on an appropriate site.
The body needs to be properly prepared for burial at sea. It is appropriate for the body to be sewn into a shroud made of a very strong, biodegradable material that does not contain plastic fibres or has been chemically treated (e.g., Calico). The shroud should be adequately weighted (all plastics must be removed) to ensure rapid descent and permanent submersion of the body and include slits or openings to minimise flotation.
Permit application form and fee
The application fee for a sea burial permit is $1675. For more information on how to pay the fee, visit: how to apply for a sea dumping permit.
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