Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Funeral disruption is an interesting trend in Australia of late - in case you didn't know, funeral business is an AUD $1.2 billion industry which is holding steady at 1.2 to 1.3% annual growth (IBISWorld 2017). Traditional funeral businesses are big business, and are disinclined to encourage consumers to shop around or ask too many questions as we have gotten used to having a funeral director take over death and after-death body care, however we have many rights at end of life, including the right to do a funeral our own way without a funeral director at all, or with a funeral planner to advise if we would like. Advance planning can help take the burden of last-minute planning away from your friends and family when you die (and yes, it IS a good idea to begin planning now because although the majority of us will die in predictable ways of illness, sudden death does still happen). And advance planning and forethought can also help save a good deal of money whilst ensuring you will have the funeral and ceremony that you would like to have.
The corporate funeral model works on a 30 minute turnaround between services, and will usually come with a seeming range of choices, but corporate funeral businesses are vertically integrated, meaning that all the businesses from food, to flowers, to transport, to printing, all belong to the one corporate umbrella. In Australia, the corporate umbrella supreme is Invocare, an interest of the Macquarie Bank (see Larkins for further detail); over a third of Australian funeral businesses come under the Invocare umbrella and include well-known funeral business brands White Lady, Simplicity, and Guardian, to name but a few. You can see a good overview of Invocare and traditional funeral business practices here at The Checkout online.
Funeral disruption businesses and services work to offer alternatives to the corporate model; a 28 minute funeral, $2000AUD in uninvoiced 'expenses', and a minimum of time spent planning a funeral that is pushed to happen within a very few days is not to everyone's taste - although this model may work very well for you and that is fine. There is a tradition of 'fast' funerals within days after a death (which may be your preferred timeline, this is entirely a personal choice), however you do not have to have a funeral within any set timeframe. One option is to go to direct cremation and hold the funeral when you are feeling less raw over your loss. In general cremation costs are about $3K, and the average cost of a 28 minute funeral in Sydney (the most expensive city to die in in Australia) is $8,700AUD (finder.com.au 2018), so this may be a good option if you would like to have a funeral that reflects the life of the person who has died and you are not tied to a fast funeral mindset.
The only time you MUST engage the services of a funeral director in NSW is when the Coroner's office has released a body, as they will only release to a funeral director's hearse. At any other time you can do everything yourself if you would like to, provided certain legal stipulations are met: you can keep a body at home for up to five days without paperwork, for example, but you must have cooling in place within eight hours. DIY funerals and funerals from home are an ideal option for budget-consious families, and for those who are not in the habit of outsourcing many aspects of their lives. So, when someone dies at home it is possible to keep everything in a close, intimate circle and in familiar surroundings if that is what you would like. Thanadoulas, some celebrants, and some independent funeral directors are happy to help you have funerals from home and family-led funerals if this option sounds good to you. I am happy to speak with you about this option if you would like to know more.
If you are a person on a budget and don't want to have a funeral from home/DIY funeral, genuine Not For Profit, community-run funeral businesses are quietly going about helping poorer members of their communities. Tender Funerals in Port Kembla is a good example of this model (the documentary about the way this business came about is very interesting, you can buy a copy on their website), and Victoria has a scheme for low income members of the community too.
Picaluna is a funeral disruption that connects the bereaved with a funeral celebrant, building the funeral from that point forward, including or excluding options to personal taste. One of the biggest advantages of this model, rather like the home/DIY funeral, is time - a Picaluna funeral may not be notably less expensive in comparison to a corporate funeral, but all time and services are accounted for, and often multiple hours of time is involved. As Picaluna celebrants are not tied to a high turnover venue with the intense profit pressures of Invocare's model, there is a far wider range of venues and options that is available to consumers. I personally know a Picaluna planner and celebrant who bills out her time in 15 minute increments, so the process is absolutely transparent in terms of costs to consumers.
This article highlights another style of funeral disruption, FuneralPartner, a website that encourages people to write and create their own eulogy, plan to stream their funeral on Facebook, and to allow friends and family who are at a distance an immediacty of access to photos and writings created for the funeral in ways that printed content does not.
There are also options around green burial, death furniture that you make yourself or purchase on a budget (go to Costco, it is possible), shrouds and death garments, and memory projects for your ashes, but I will go into further details in other posts about these aspects of after-death options.
Wondering what your own funeral, or that of someone close to you, might look and feel like? Email or call me, I am a Thanadoula who specialises in advance planning and writing.