2012-08-22

Scattering Ashes

    The scattering of ash is rather relaxed in Australia.  While there are certain rules and guidelines (which i will cover) they are not too strickt.  In this post I will look at how ash can legally be scattered (or 'diposed' of) in Australia, how people view ash and some interesting ways that ash has been scattered.

    Firstly the laws and regulations about scattering ash.  In NSW ash is considered "inert" (or non-infectious) and thus safe to be handled by most people.  According to the rules one of three things can be done with the ash by whomever picks it up:

  • Buried in a cemetery in a small plot or placement in columbarium or niche wall.
  • Preserved in a decorative urn and kept at home or some other favourite spot.
  • Scattered on private land, beach, river, public parks and sea or at a place that was significant to the deceased and families.

    It goes on to say that you do need permission and consent of the landowner or relevant authority when disposing of ash.  For example if scattering the ash on private land you need permission from the own of the land, or if scattering ash in a park you need permission of the council or government department that oversees the park.

    All of this information and more is available at:

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/factsheets/general/cremation_ashes.html

    It is interesting that while the ash is considered "inert" the regulations state that "scattering of ashes may contravene the provisions of the Clean Air Act, or they may constitute water pollution".  So on one hand ash is non-infectious sand that anyone can handle (or even eat, there is no law against consuming ashes) yet the act of scattering ash can contaminate the surroundings.  It goes to show that the scattering, the disposal, of ashes is more important than the ashes themselves.  Both legally and socialy, the process or action of how we 'get rid' of the ashes is more significant and worth more attention than the physical ashes.  The government is quite happy to call the ashes safe and that anyone can have them, letting us do anything we like with the ashes while they are in our possession.  One can literally eat the ashes, use them in painting and so on.  Yet as soon as we go to dispose of or scatter the ashes the government becomes concerned with 'contamination'.

    Having said all that, let's look at some of the more interesting and unique ways people have scattered ashes.  Here's a general and long list of strange or amusing ways to scatter ashes.  It is an interesting list and covers things auch as making pencils or tattoos using ashes.

    The more expensive is sendings ashes into space like a "shooting star" (as the above article puts it.  This process costs $200,000 USD, so not within everyone budget.  A very interesting and unique idea, that would only appeal to some and be affordable to even less.

    One of the older myths is about the scattering of ashes at Disneyland.  Dating back to the early 2000s these stories tell of a child who loved a certain ride (usually either the 'Haunted Mansion' or 'Pirates of the Caribbean') becoming sick and dying.  So one of the parents scattered their ashes on that ride secretly and without Disney officials consent.  This scattering of ash results in anything from the ride being shut down to simple shock of the readers.  Whether the story is true or not it is an interesting way of scattering ashes and forces us to think.  We have to consider what is "appropriate", how the scattering of ashes on a public ride, a place for fun and for children is considered "disgusting", "wrong" and "inconsiderate" by so many.  You can read some of the reactions by looking at the comments to this post.  Ashes are non-infectious and physically like sand, they would do no more harm to people or the ride than a shoe full of sand.  I have gotten ashes into my eyes and lungs when decanting them, it is no worse than sand.

    From this we have to think that it's not the physical properties of ashes but the emotional properties.  Whilst ashes can't physically do much they have a strong mental impact, knowing what they are (or who they are) is the bigger part.  The physical aspects of the ashes is nothing compared with the mental aspects.  To scatter ashes on a place of fun, a place where children go is very confrontational and basically violates our sensibilities.  This is possibly why the stories keep popping up and always get such a strong reaction.

    Perhaps the strangest and most modern is the LifeGem idea which started in 2002.  Basically this company takes the ashes and coverts them into a fake diamond which can be worn on a ring, necklace or any other pice of jewellery or displayed in another way.  The prices themselves are actually quite reasonable when you consider the price of other jewellery.

    But the reason I talk about this is because it is so interesting, so modern.  It (along with other things like LifeArt coffins) encompass modernity so beautifully.  Here we have a product which is mass produced made with a cookie-cutter template, and yet it is personal and personalised.



An~~

21 comments:

  1. Ashes are non-infectious and physically like sand, they would do no more harm to people or the ride than a shoe full of sand. I have gotten ashes into my eyes and lungs when decanting them, it is no worse than sand.

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  2. That's my point, ashes are perfectly safe and I breathed in a few myself without issue. They might cause some damage to the lungs/eyes, but no more than sand would. Yet we need permission to scatter them as they might 'contaminate' the area.

    Ashes won't physically contaminate an area, but they might make it 'dirty' in our minds. Many see ashes as an essence of the deceased, and of death or the dead. We're uncomfortable with the idea of death mixing with other places. At least that's my theory!

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  3. Whilst ashes may not be dangerous or infectious, it is still the remains of a person, and as such if there are people in the area where the ashes are being spread they should be notified that it is about to occur. It gives them the option to move away from the area should they disagree with the practice or just not wish to be in the area.

    Just because one person is not bothered by coming into contact with ashes from a person, does not mean everyone will feel the same. When I pass from this world, my ashes will be spread at the beach where my partner and I had our first date, and he eventually proposed - I would hate to think that whilst my ashes were being spread, they come into contact with someone who holds different views and upsets them. My ashes will still be left at the beach but this can be done in a way that does not interfere with others.

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    1. I agree completely, people shouldn't be throwing ashes about if potentially throwing on others. It's like the case of the haunted house at Disneyland, supposedly someone scattered ashes in it. That's just not right to me, while I have no issues with it I do understand others might and so it's rude in a way. To me it is would be like someone throwing a bucket of sand into the wind while others try to enjoy a picnic.

      This is where I took issue with the laws regarding scattering ashes. The laws do not address this issue at all really, there is no 'don't chuck ashes in the faces of others' type thing. If you want to scatter ashes at a beach, you inform the council and water authority, get permission, then just do it. There is no polite warning needed at the time for those around.

      The laws address possible space contamination, how ashes could damage the local surrounding (air, water, land, etc). Not how it might affect other people in that area. I find this theme in a lot of laws, when it comes to disposing of human remains by whatever method there is a general concern for "public health" on a physical level. This does tie back into an emotional aspect to some extent, but not legally. The intent of the law is generally around physical public health, in this case potential contamination to the land, air, water, etc.

      ~

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    2. I agree with this sentiment as well. Today, my family and I were sitting on a beach beside a sea wall (groyne). We had not been there ten minutes when a whole family trooped out onto the groyne and before we knew what they were doing, they had emptied a box of ashes out onto the sea. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing very hard and directly back onto the beach, and we were down-wind. We were the only ones sitting there right beside the groyne, and you would have thought they could have just asked us to move for a few moments for our own benefit. Instead, they ignored us, ignored the strength of the wind and its direction and just tipped the remains out onto the water. My son muttered to me that he hoped it was a pet and not a person. I agreed with him. To some it might just be some biodegradable ash, but to me it used to be a person, and I have very strong feelings about breathing in particles of dead body, however small they may be.

      I might add that this family of about 10 hardly seemed to be upset or crying when they tipped the ashes out, but they seemed to be dressed appropriately, certainly not dressed for the beach, so you would think that they had some regard for what they were doing. Pity that regard didn't include the people who had come to the beach that day (on a saturday afternoon in a peak holiday period).

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  5. Anonymous13/9/13 21:02

    Anyone know the rules regarding scattering ashes over a existing grave at a lawn cemetery, my guess is I need permission, not sure whether to just go at night and be discreet, what would the penalty be?

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    1. It depends on various things, but essentially the rule of thumb is that you need permission from the relevant land owner(s). In this case there might be two owners. Graves are often rented essentially (tenure or such) and not always owned, although some are. But even if you own a grave the cemetery has the right to dictate certain things, like what ornaments you can put on it. So think of the grave as owned and cared for by the cemetery but owned and used by the deceased and/or family. You might need permission from these parties.

      If you're unsure talk to the staff, find out what they think but I bet they'd say yes. Having said all this, cemeteries are often use to ashes being scattered in the grounds, most cemeteries (if not all in Sydney) have dedicated space to memorialise ashes scattered in the grounds.

      Personally I'd just do it, but don't do it at night and be discreet. Do it during the day openly and honestly. In the end as long as you don't make a mess or get in anyone's way nobody will even notice really.

      ~

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    2. Anonymous14/9/13 11:25

      Thanks for your advice

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  6. Anonymous4/10/14 18:10

    is it morally right to scatter ashes in multiple places

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  7. Being interested in genealogy, somehow I stumbled across my father's plaque at Springvale War Cemetery.
    I did not realize there was a war cemetery at the time, but knew that his mother and father's plus his youngest sister's ashes were not far away in the botanical garden. I got into a bit of a muddle, as I remember his sister being upset with the family not following the hearse away from the church, even it was to be coming back after a little while. Just the gesture seemed important and really it was. I found myself saying "where are his ashes" thinking that perhaps his sister went and picked them up at the crematorium where they were supposed to be scattered. I quickly worked out it was the War Memorial. But the question, "where were his ashes" did not go away. So I found the crematorium records online, and found his name in the list bit it had a "COL" next to his name. So then I rang the large cemetery and they said a COL meant the ashes were collected. They looked further and told me they were collected by the funeral director. I knew who these were, so I emailed them. They got back to me promptly by phone. I said "pardon me, but this seems ridiculous after nearly 29 years to be told that my father's ashes were collected not scattered at the cemetery, so if they were collected, who collected them?" They said they were never collected and had been sitting there at the back of their chapel, awaiting collection. I was so upset and grief stricken, and so apologetic for this being done. I then tried to retrieve them myself, but the next of kin, my mother had died 5 years before, so they requested that the executors come in, ID themselves and sign off to collect the ashes. I asked them if they could contact the two brother's for me, as I was the black sheep and had very little contact with them and would rather not.
    They did this, and notified me that they were on the way in, and then rang me back to say they had just left 20 minutes ago. I had emailed my sister with a forward on to my brother, to say it might be a good idea to scatter his ashes at the local cemetery where his memorial plaque is. I have not heard a word from the younger brother who took off with then and have them in an urn. I have been trying to communicate with sister and older brother about this matter, and my mother's ashes needing to be appropriated laid to rest. They seem to have white anted me. Do I have a legal leg to stand on having found these lost ashes initially? I would like to have them laid to rest properly, and he is a war hero too. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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  8. Wow heather, I have no idea but I hope you have worked something out and your father is now laid to rest.

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  9. Ashes have very little negative impact in the ocean and in addition they actually contain many of the elements needed for new life. I highly recommend some ashes from every cremation be scattered in the ocean.
    http://www.oceanashes.com

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  10. Does anyone know the legal standing for having ashes, already interred, returned to the family at their request? I would like my mothers and fathers ashes back as the cemetery can not do as we wish. I would like to put them in a memorial stone and keep them in my backyard. Not sure if there are any legal requirements for that either as I don't really know who to contact to find out. I should point out I live in Victoria.

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    1. You may find the cemetery willing to return your parents ashes as space is now starting to become an issue. The interment of ashes is not for all perpetuity as most of us would believe and a time limit is now being placed on how long the ashes will be interred. I would contact the cemetery and find out their position on this.

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  11. Anita, if the ashes are placed somewhere specifically in the cemetery, you could have them interred and transferred, just like they do with bodies. It is going to probably cost you though. I really think it is better to have them in an appropriate place. I recently met someone who bought a house and they were digging in the backyard coming across an urn of ashes. They had to contact the previous owner to get them to come pick them up. I do think the cemetery or scattering in the sea is the best thing for ashes. My mother's ashes were taken to the farm, and she was so lonely there. Once I hear my brother had them I demanded they be put at the local cemetery where she was with other people since she was highly social ... if you know what I mean

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    1. Scattering of a loved one's ashes is a very personal matter, sadly not all family members may agree. It is even more complex when there are relationship issues within a family. Sadly many of these instances end up unresolved whilst some do end in legal action. It should be a time for cooler heads to prevail, differences put aside and honouring your loved one, by all family members become the priority. Please extend an olive branch to all involved and resolve this for the sake of your mother.

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    2. I think you are misconstruing my statement that it is personal to me My mother's ashes were finally scattered in the local cemetery on my request. They were not placed anywhere in a special space in the cemetery. Although my unspiritual sister said they distributed her ashes around the cemetery It was a great relief that this was done so her spirit could finally rest. All her emotional trauma settled down then. It felt as if she was at peace at last. I don't think people realise the power of the spirit after people die.

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  12. I'd like to mix ashes in with, say, cement or a similar long lasting material, then throw the resulting slab or pipe shape into a coral reef as a 'home' for reef fish etc. Does any company in Australia offer this as a service? Please reply with their URL or phone number, thanks.

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    1. Anonymous26/9/17 13:49

      I placed a post for you with info on the eternal reef. Hope that helps.��

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  13. Anonymous26/9/17 13:47

    S Kris, hopes this helps your question.
    https://www.funeralzone.com.au or
    www.eternalreef.com
    I read about these eternal reefs awhile ago after we went out on a ferry & scattered by Pop's ashes. No-one else was around,only us. Yes, the wind blew & we were covered in his ashes also which we brushed off into the wind.
    I do like the coral reef idea though. Plus it also helps our marine life & grows new life also.
    Good luck.��

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Never hesitate to ask a question or comment on something, this is an open minded and free space.

If you want to contact me privately do so at: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com

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