In Australia burials at sea are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Burials at sea—loaded in Australia or conducted on an Australian vessel—require a permit. The permit application form must be completed and sent with a copy of the death certificate and the application fee. The permit approval process usually takes 3-4 working days, although our statutory timeframe allows longer for processing if required. Additional approvals may be required under the 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.
Required documents for applying for a burial at sea Permit
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.
Permit application form
Reasons for applying for a burial at sea
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 retired or active navy personnel, fishermen or mariner.
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.
Sea burial locations
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.
Appropriate preparation for sea burials
The Sea Dumping Act requires that the body is properly prepared for burial at sea.
Requirements include the body being sewn into a shroud made of a very strong material and weighted sufficiently to ensure the rapid sinking and permanent submersion of the body.
If you need to correspond on this issue, you can contact the Sea Dumping Section at:
Sea Dumping Section
Environment Approvals Division
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601