Cremations have overtaken burials as the most popular funeral option in Australia, as well as many other countries in the Western world. As Australians shift from the traditional method of burial, loved ones often ask us, ‘do I need permission to scatter ashes?’
Cremation allows families the freedom and flexibility to personalise a loved one’s memorial or ashes scattering service later on, to match what their person loved in life. A memorial service or celebration of life is generally a less formal gathering to honour a person’s life, without the coffin present. Scattering ashes is sometimes a component of the memorial service, but not always.
Scattering of ashes is usually arranged by the family of the deceased, separately from any cremation or funeral.
It can take place at any time and be done almost anywhere - from your backyard, to the pub, to a favourite restaurant, or place in nature like the beach or hiking spot. Scattering a loved one’s ashes can be a wonderful tribute to return the deceased to nature, or connect them with a special place they loved. That might be a local park, beach, or sports ground.
This article will help you to answer the question, 'Do I need permission to scatter ashes?' We explain the rules around ashes scattering in Australia and offer some ideas for scattering cremated ashes.
Do I need permission to scatter ashes on private property?
We recommend asking for permission from the landowners if you intend to scatter human ashes on private property. However, scattering ashes on private property is legal in Australia.
What about public property?
Whether you need permission to scatter human ashes will differ between local councils. Scattering of ashes may contravene the terms of air or water pollution of the environmental laws of your state or Local Government Area.
Councils and other government authorities may even set a time and place when these activities can be undertaken and can impose other conditions. Scattering human ashes without consent from appropriate authorities could land you in legal trouble. Consequently, we suggest inquiring with the local council to find out if any restrictions apply to scattering ashes, and if you need permission.
Do I need permission to scatter ashes at sea?
Perhaps your loved one was a keen fisher or had an affinity with the ocean or beach?
You generally don’t need permission to scatter cremated ashes at most Australian beaches or coastlines. However, you will need to comply with local environmental protection authority guidelines.
If you intend to scatter cremated ashes off a boat, you must get permission from the master of the boat beforehand. Boats can be chartered specifically to scatter ashes.
Here are some additional tips for scattering ashes at sea, a lake, beach, or ocean:
- Pre-loosen the lid of the container or pre-drill large holes to make it easier to remove the lid when you’re ready to scatter;
- Be aware of the wind direction and scatter close to the water if possible; and
- Always empty the container’s contents into the sea - never just throw the full container overboard.
Do I need permission to scatter ashes at a cemetery?
Perhaps you wish to reunite your person’s cremated remains with another deceased loved one who already rests at a cemetery or memorial park. There are a few options:
- You may choose to purchase a cremation memorial, which could be a niche in a wall or garden bed. Each cemetery has various options available and you will need to contact the cemetery involved for their options and pricing.
- Scattering can be done in the gardens or on the grounds of the memorial park, but you will need permission to scatter human ashes at a cemetery. Contact the cemetery administration for their options and pricing.
Can I travel with ashes?
Travelling with cremated ashes to a place is allowed. Depending on the airline, some restrictions can apply.
If you wish to take cremated ashes overseas, you should check that country’s embassy or government website for their local rules. Some countries require specific documentation for bringing in cremated ashes, so it’s best to do your research as soon as possible.
Read our article what you need to know about taking ashes on Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin planes to find out more.
How to decide where to scatter ashes.
Considering your loved one's passions, hobbies and the places they loved in life, should help you decide where to scatter ashes.
The options are almost limitless. The best thing to do is to consider a place to scatter cremated ashes that best pays tribute to their unique life.
Here are some ideas for where to scatter ashes:
- At water: sea, lake, river, ocean, beach, or a favourite fishing spot
- Among nature: a special park, bushlands, outback, or a favourite hiking spot
- A family member’s backyard or garden; or planted with a tree or seedlings
- Somewhere of significance in their hometown
- A family holiday spot
- Cemetery/memorial park: a deceased family member’s resting place (burial plot or garden)
As cremation is growing in popularity in recent years, there are now more options to take scatterings to the next level. You might also consider these methods of scattering cremated ashes:
- From a boat charter
- Dropped from a drone
- Skydiving from a plane
- Dropped from a hot air balloon
- Shot into the sky with fireworks
Final thoughts on scattering ashes.
When deciding where to scatter ashes, think about whether you want a permanent memorial place where you and other family members can visit, or if scattering at a special place is more fitting to your loved one’s legacy.
If you intend to scatter or plant your loved one’s ashes in the yard of a private residence, consider if the homeowner is planning on staying at that property long term. If the residence is not likely to be permanent, a public location may be more suitable to allow family and friends to visit.
If scattering human remains, be mindful of the following, which will help make the experience a little easier and more pleasant for everyone:
- Consider the container the remains are in. Containers from the crematorium are difficult to open (often with a plug that needs a flat screwdriver to lift it off) and often not easy to scatter from. Ensure you know how to open the receptacle before the moment comes to scatter. Alternatively consider transferring the remains into a receptacle specifically designed for easily scattering remains, such as the Eco Scattering Urn.
- Be aware of the direction of the wind when scattering remains. Have guests stand upwind to avoid any airborne remains blowing into family or friends.
- Consider other people. If scattering in a public place remember other people have every right to be there also. Be respectful and if needed, discreet. Choose a time and a place that avoids large numbers of members of the public.
One advantage of cremation is the flexibility to keep the cremated ashes anywhere you choose. You can also have them divided up among family members, or even scatter some and put the rest in an urn or keepsake like memorial jewellery. Our list of scattering and keepsake ideas might give you some ideas. Read our article, what to do with ashes after cremation, for more ideas and inspiration.
If you’d like help in planning a memorial or scattering ceremony, our Bare Funeral service might be what you’re looking for. This includes a respectful, unattended cremation plus a funeral celebrant who can help you plan and officiate a memorial or scattering service.
At Bare we don’t believe there is a single way to say goodbye to a loved one, which is why our Bare Funerals are flexible to ensure you say your farewell in the way that’s right for you and your loved one. We also offer the option to hold a ceremony prior to the cremation (with the coffin present) in a more traditional style of farewell.
Visit our Bare Funerals page here to find out more, or give our arrangers a call on 1800 071 176.