Survey Reminder !!!

    Every month I am going to have a reminder about the surveys, to gather up as many respondents as possible.  At least until I get what I feel is enough.

    All are relatively short, and take an average of 10 minutes or less each.  As always, the surveys are completely anonymous and confidential.  If there are any issues or questions do not hesitate to contact me: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com.

First Survey - Funeral Company Knowledge:
    The first survey looks at how well people know the funeral companies operating in Sydney.  In this survey I explore memory (both recognition and recall) to see if people actually know and remember different companies.

    Anyone can do this survey, as the focus is on Sydney companies yet mand are national brands.  It is also applicable for both funeral staff and non-funeral staff.

    You can complete the survey by following the link below:

<> Unfortunately you have to copy and paste a url for certain questions.  I cannot embed the image, I understand it's not ideal, but it's the best I can do <>

    This survey might be most interesting to funeral companies, to see if their methods actually work.  Although it has several limitations, the point of this survey is to see if a certain concept is worth future exploration.

Second Survey - Funeral Attendance:
    The second survey is aimed at exploring funerals people have attended as a mourner.  There are a few things at work in this survey, the results could be rather useful.  While anyone can do this survey the focus is on the role of the mourner.

    You can complete the survey by following the link below:

    This survey is fairly simple, and aimed only at those who have attended a funeral as a mourner.  With luck the results might be quite informative of funeral practices and attitudes.

Third Survey - Age & Working Funerals:
    The third and final survey looks at age and funerals.  How we perceive the age of staff working in the industry and how age plays a role.  This survey is for funeral staff only, those who currently work or have worked in the funeral industry.

    You can complete the survey by following the link below:

    This survey explores a rather important and common issue in the industry.  Age and the funeral industry are contentious topics, so it would be interesting to investigate things like ageism.

Other & Future Work:
    If you are interested in participating in future research, as an individual or on behalf of a group/company, please email me: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com.

    I am always looking for people willing to participate in a variety of studies about the funeral industry.  If you or anyone you know are interested in this please email me: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com As always all information and participation will be kept confidential, no personal identity or details will be recorded.

    Alternatively you can leave a comment on this post, I will read all comments left on the blog.



Forest Lawn Cremating Drugs Investigation

    Recently I heard a rumour that Forest Lawn Crematorium had been used to destroy (via cremation) drugs by police.  Below I outline why I think this otherwise minor story is getting traction.


Blog Stats - 26/11/12

    Time for the monthly breakdown of views.  I find doing this is actually interesting, and helpful in many ways.  Hopefully others find it as interesting or informative as I do!


Thanatourism: Macquarie Park Cemetery & Crematorium

    Macquarie Park Cemetery & Crematorium (MCP) is a very interesting place, at least from my perspective.  It is a great example of modernisation in society and such a rich place for study.  But it is also a nice place to just visit casually.

    MCP has gone out of its way to make the place friendly.  From good staff to good grounds, this is a good place to have a picnic or explore for the day.


Funeral Advertisements

    Funeral advertisements are a debated topic.  Some see them as a negative thing, that ads aimed at the general public forget the individual and de-personalise the industry.  But these public ads also do a lot of good, they help to bring funerals back to the public.  As such grief and the funeral industry are made more acceptable.


Inside the funeral home: Walter Carter Funerals

    A while ago I spent a couple of hours with the CEO of Walter Carter Funerals.  It wasn't a study so much as a meeting.  But I learnt a lot and had a great time.  The CEO is incredibly knowledgeable  approachable and open.  No question or topic was inappropriate.


Misconceptions & Questions part 4

    Time for another round of questions and misconceptions!  Here are a few things I have heard, seen or been asked about the funeral industry.


The Funeral Industry is Not Alone

    Not long ago I wrote a post about how the funeral industry should be embracing the internet and public interaction.  That the funeral industry is very innovative, but reluctant to interact with the public.  So funeral companies tend to avoid the internet, which is often seen as a very public space.

    This problem is not just faced by the funeral industry.  Other organisations, systems and industries are also subject to these same issues.  Below is a good video which outlines how the academic system is encountering similar problems.  And how it will need to embrace change.

    The concept behind the video is very similar to what I was working with for the post.  It also illustrates that the funeral industry is not 'backward' or 'old fashioned'.  It is facing the same problems as modern academic systems.  The fact that the funeral industry faces these troubles only supports the idea that it is modern and current.

Open Access Explained!
By phdcomics.




Rethinking the Cemetery Role

    In this post I look at the changing views of cemeteries.  How our attitudes and perceptions around these places is changing.  But also how we use them is changing.  Cemeteries are being seen as more than just a place to store the dead.


Working Funerals - Neighbour calls police about body at funeral home

    Very recently I had a talk with the people at Divinity Funerals.  I was told a funny story about how one neighbour is reluctant to have a funeral home so close.

    One night there was a viewing in the funeral home chapel, nothing new.  After the viewing they were loading the coffin into the car to take back to the mortuary.  When suddenly "everything was blue and red" as police swamped them.

    It turned out the neighbour had seen them loading the coffin into the car, and called the police.  Saying how the neighbour was putting a dead body in a van.  Forgetting to mention that it was a funeral home and a coffin.  Naturally the police were not too impressed and quite apologetic to the funeral staff.  Saying how they would make a note in the system about that number, and they had told off the neighbour.

    It goes to show how reluctant some are to have a funeral home close to them.  Getting approval to build a new funeral home is incredibly difficult from councils and residents.

    My research is finding a main way people chose the funeral home is by how close it is to them.  When a death occurs people want the funeral place to be nearby, many say how this is convenient and nice.  Which is also evident by the way InvoCare spends so much to rent so many offices around Sydney.  Clearly they think it is financially worth it.

    Yet when there is no personal death most do not want the funeral home as a neighbour.  Other than when needed the funeral home should be distant to them, over there and not over here.  This is known as Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) to some.  How we want something close to us when we need it but distant when we don't.

    The funeral home is unfortunately stuck in this paradox.  The company needs to be close to residents and commercial areas for customers as this is a major decider for many customers.  But then the same people do not want the funeral home close when they are no longer customers.  Keeping the funeral home near but at arm's length.

    An unfortunate down side to this is it encourages superficial shop fronts and briefcase funeral directors.  The mortuary, where the dead are dealt with, are removed, confined to industrial areas.



Thanatourism: Woronora

    Woronora is a large cemetery located in the Shire area of Sydney.  I find it a nice place, quiet and peaceful.  But not quite as interesting as others.  Although it does have a unique history and does deserve its own place on this list.

    I am not writing a 'guided tour' of Woronora as I would recommend just wondering about freely.


What to call the industry?

    I have heard a few different names for the funeral industry.  The two most common being the "death-care" industry and the "grief" industry.  Unfortunately neither of these are accurate, and are in fact quite misleading.

    Here is why these two names are inaccurate and why I call it the "funeral industry".  After all, it's important to qualify and explain terms.


Working Funerals - Joining the industry

    This has come up a couple of times, where people ask me advice on how to get into the funeral industry.  It isn't a common question, but certainly one worth addressing.  As it also says something about the industry itself.


The InvoCare Investigators

    Quite a while ago I was at a funeral and noticed someone rather odd.  Someone I believe to be an 'InvoCare investigator'.


Working Funerals - Turning the coffin mistakes

    A while ago I wrote a post on how to turn the coffin after a service.  Just a basic guide for those who have limited experience with this.

    Since then I have been asked about mistakes that are made when turning the coffin.  What mistakes are made and how to avoid them.  Here are the four most common mistakes I have seen and how to prevent them.


Funeral Spam

    Recently I got the first bit of funeral related spam.  I find it odd that this email gets so little spam, considering it put it on the blog and other places so publicly.  But anyway, this spam amused me so I thought it deserved a post.

Click to enlarge.
    I took a screenshot on the ad in the email, then blanked out the contact details.  This way if it is just phishing or a scam it won't get anyone who looks at it.  Plus I do not allow advertising on the blog, I might talk of companies and let them have posts.  But only in the sense that they are explaining or describing themselves, not promoting a company.

    If anyone is interested they could track this down, but be aware that I have not checked to see if this is legitimate nor will I.


WNBull History

    This year WNBull turned 120 years old, a rather significant event for the company.  But WNBull is not very effective at describing itself to others.

    Seeing as I have been looking into the history of the funeral industry I thought it only appropriate to write a post with everything I know about Bulls rich history.


Children, Funerals & Death

    Children and funerals are a touchy and controversial topic.  Many are hesitant, reluctant even, to combine the two.  Choosing to keep children as far from funerals and death as possible.

    However some companies like Macquarie Park Crematorium and Eastern Suburbs funeral home are making a deliberate and conscious space for children.

NSW funeral home search terms

    This is just a short breakdown of search terms used to find funeral homes in NSW through google.  I looked at a few terms people use to find funeral homes.  As part of exploring how people think of the funeral industry.

    Originally this was just background research and possible evidence.  But I thought it interesting enough to get its own post.


My Perspective, Bias & the Blog

    Writing this blog over the last few months has been very educational for me.  I've learnt so much, and not just about the industry.  Something I have found, which I never even thought of, is that my perspective and assumed knowledge confuses people.  Things like my terminology, word choices and so on are strange and foreign to many.

    Here I describe my perspective, bias and how my assumed knowledge has sometimes confused the point.  That one has to write for ones audience and develop a completely different language and mind frame depending on the medium.


The Funeral Industry & the Internet: step forward or be left behind

    Overall the funeral industry has been quite late to the internet.  Even now the industry is still not truly active or taking advantage of the online opportunities.

    In this post I explain how the industry is not very internet active and why this is actually a big issue for the industry.  I also discuss why the industry is so hesitant of the internet, even at their own loss.

NSW Health Funeral Industry Regulations & Rules

    A while ago I read the NSW regulations and rules for the funeral industry as set out by the health department.  You can read them via the link below, this document is actually a really good summary of the rules and regulations.  Deliberately made easy to read by people outside the law field (like me), so do not avoid it thinking it will just be complex or boring!

    Strongly recommended for anyone interested in the industry:


    It should be noted that the law changes every so often, I have heard it changed again recently.  So this document from 2003 might not be exactly accurate.  But it gives a good idea and understanding.

    Also, NSW is the only state in Australia to have any real regulations.  Personally I think InvoCare might have had something to do with this, as NSW is by far their strongest area from what I can work out.  Of course I cannot prove this, or even be relatively sure as I have not really looked into it.  But it makes sense, InvoCare is very into OH&S and decent standards.  Anecdotal evidence suggests InvoCare has improved the industry standards.  Thus I loosely reason that InvoCare has directly or indirectly helped to bring regulation to the industry.



Funeral Rights - a critique

    This has been on my to-do list for a while, to review 'Funeral Rights' by Robert Larkins.  It is the only book of its kind that I can find on the Australian funeral industry.

    Unfortunately it is not a good book in many ways, nor is it a good representation of the funeral industry.  So I have decided to pick out a couple of faults with it.


Strange Last Request

    I've heard of some odd last requests, but this one is probably the strangest.  A husband decided to honour his recently deceased wife by having an "exact" replica of her vagina carved onto her gravestone.  The wife had apparently requested this, and even took photos to be used by the sculpter.

    Apparently the hardest part was finding a sculptor who would agree to do the work.  The article states how most called it "blasphemy".  Personally I think this is very wrong, it is not the job of the sculptor (or undertaker) to decide if it is right or wrong.  If that was the request then it should be honoured without prejudice or judgement.  One might not agree with the request, but it does not make it right or wrong.




Update & Contacting the Funeral Industry

    Well, I went from struggling to find things to write about to having too much.  There is simply so much I need to get out before December.  Too much in fact that I will fall behind if I do not start posting more often.

    My essays have just fallen so far behind to the point that I haven't even started one which was meant to be finished by now.  I wanted to write about our fetishism and bondage to the dead body as part of my goal to define The Dead Body in society.  How we emphasise The Dead Body, it becomes more than just A dead body.  I also wanted to explore my concept of Social Sanitation and InvoCarenisation this month.  So much for that!

    From now on I'll be posting randomly, about once a day (maybe more), at least until I reach a certain point.  So get ready!

    I'll take this opportunity to discuss my results (if they can be called such) of contacting the funeral industry.  Over a two week span I rang 20 funeral homes.  As there are so many funeral homes I had to limit my search somehow, so I only contacted those I could easily find on google maps.  I will also include Lady Anne Funerals in this count, even though I contacted them a while ago I think they count.

    Of these 20 funeral homes 2 said yes, Lady Anne and Walter Carter.  All other 18 said "no" or "we will call you back".  Mostly I spoke with middle management, such as location managers and such.  In almost every case they thought it was a very good idea and were very positive.  One or two even sounded excited by the prospect of a study.  Unfortunately these people were not high enough or the right people to green light a study.  Instead they told me they would suggest it to the right person and get back to me.

    In the cases where I did get the boss or owner almost everyone said no or that they would call me back.  I found these people to come in one of two types (broadly speaking).  Either they were incredibly positive and informative, talking with me for quite a while in some cases.  Or they simply said no, not interested, not possible or not practical.  Every one of these people I spoke with was very polite, some even sounded guilty or bad when they said no.

    Other times (although not too often thankfully) I would get an 'abrupt' person.  One funeral home in particular stood out like this.  As soon as I said what I wanted the person had lost interest, clearly I was not a customer thus not on their radar.  They didn't even ask for my details, such as name or contact info.  I had to 'emphasise' this in the hope they wrote it down and would pass it on.  But I have no doubt this never happened.

    In almost every case when I contacted a funeral home and explained my intent (to study them) I was faced by an awkward silence.  It became quite funny and predictable actually.  I would ring the funeral home, tell them how I wanted to do a study and have a strange silence await me.  They were unsure what to say, if it was a prank, or even what I meant.  It was obviously a rather unusual question.  I became quite amused by it after a while, it was just such a predictable and strange thing.  The silence would even last about the same length every time, about 5 seconds.

    After this I contacted two cemeteries/crematoriums.  The first was Macquarie Park, who have been more than positive.  In fact we have developed a nice relationship in a relatively short time and looks like we might be working together quite a bit in the future.  The other crematorium I talked with was Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park at their open day.  We have yet to take it further, but it's only early days.  The staff there were incredibly open and friendly, so I have high hopes for ESMP.

    This is where it stands currently.  I plan on contacting various religious orders and other similar groups who have a special relationship with the industry.  But I intend to study the funeral homes with or without their help.  It's quite easy, been done by others in the past and might have to be done by me. I will do two main things: the first is attend funerals as a mourner and observe staff and how they work.  The second is pretend to plan funerals, ring up for quotes and advice as well as get friends to also do this.  I would much rather study the industry from within, and let companies have an input.  But either way I do intend to study the industry.


Funeral Fun - Holding hands

    Recently I was at a funeral when something rather amusing happened at the graveside.  It's about time I did a 'funeral fun' anyway!


Thanatourism: Rookwood

    Rookwood is the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.  It has a rather interesting history and is a wonderful cross-section of Sydney population over time.  Originally it was intended and designed for leisure, as a place for people to enjoy.  Because it was quite a trip out of Sydney they deliberately designed it for people to spend the whole day there.  When one went to visit a grave they would also enjoy the place.

Hidden exhibition.
    Unfortunately this has vanished, as people distanced themselves from funerals after WWI.  So Rookwood was confined to state of avoidance.  People now only go here for a funeral or to visit a specific grave.  Almost nobody visits Rookwood just to explore.  A state which would make the original planners quite sad.

    In this post I explain how to visit Rookwood.  Some things to see, which ways to go and so on.  In the hopes of getting some to use it as intended.  It genuinely is an amazing place to have a picnic, equal to Waverley Cemetery or Hyde Park.