We asked Australians what they thought about funeral services and found most didn’t really know why we need them. Many were left wondering, Do you have to have a funeral in Australia at all when someone dies?

A funeral service is universally an opportunity for family and friends to gather, mourn the death of a loved one and celebrate their life. But we found most Australians don’t understand the legal requirements and cultural expectations of arranging a funeral.

Private funerals generally have a price range of up to $15,000 for a more elaborate burial and $4,000 for a basic cremation according to Finder as of 2023. Just like weddings, planning a funeral usually comes with unexpected add-ons that you weren’t expecting. And those extras can quickly add up.

This article answers the commonly asked questions, Do you have to have a funeral in Australia? What if I don't want a funeral in Australia? and Are DIY funerals in Australia allowed?

Australians don’t know if they do have to have a funeral

There is a great misconception about funerals in Australia. *A third of Australians (32%) think they are a legal requirement, while the same proportion believes they are required by religion.

The underlying problem with rising funeral costs is that 71% of Aussies don’t know how to go about farewelling a loved one without engaging a funeral director and arranging a formal ceremony.

Do you have to have a funeral in Australia?

Thousands of people each year turn to Google to ask ‘Do you have to have a funeral in Australia?’

The simple answer is no.

You don’t even need to hire a funeral director or religious leader when a loved one dies.

Despite what most Australians think, there are no rules, laws, or regulations that require a funeral must be held immediately after a person dies. This expectation is simply what Australia’s $1.6 billion funeral industry wants us to believe.

For more than 100 years, Australian families have hired a funeral director to arrange the transport and logistics of a burial or cremation, to plan the ceremony and take care of the paperwork so that they can focus on their grief. On the contrary, you can handle most of the arrangements yourself depending on how comfortable you are with certain elements.

You can legally arrange almost every aspect of a funeral yourself, in most parts of Australia. However, the laws regarding proper internment (burial or cremation) of the deceased person, and the paperwork to register a death and other legal aspects, can be quite strict.

Alternatively, direct-to-consumer funeral provider Bare has supported thousands of Australian families in arranging the memorial or wake themselves, while we take care of the logistics and legal side of things. Not only has this saved Aussie families more than $13 million collectively, it has also allowed them to plan a more personalised send-off in a way that truly celebrated how their person lived.

What is the cost of cremation without a service?

An unattended cremation, or a bare cremation -  a cremation without a formal service - is the cheapest funeral option.

The average cost of cremation without a service is around $3,500 according to Gathered Here as of 2022, however prices will vary depending on your location and chosen funeral provider.

Bare offers an option of affordable cremation without a funeral service. We will take your loved one into our care, arrange an unattended cremation, return the ashes, and arrange all the paperwork. Families usually plan a separate send-off their way or known as memorial, where they usually have the ashes on display or scattered as part of the event.

That might be a simple backyard BBQ, a few drinks at the RSL, or you could do nothing, if that feels right by your person.

Instead of having a funeral, families are arranging the memorial or wake themselves.
Instead of having a funeral, families are arranging the memorial or wake themselves.

What if I don't want a funeral in Australia?

"I don’t want a funeral. Just burn me."

We hear that a lot.

If you are adamant that you don’t want a funeral, it’s important to define what you mean by ‘funeral’ and ensure your loved ones know your wishes.

Most Australians associate a ‘funeral’ with an attended church or chapel ceremony, with a coffin or casket displayed, before the cremation or burial. But a ’funeral’ can be more of a wake, celebration of life, or a memorial.

A memorial can even be something intangible like having a star named after the deceased person, or making a legacy donation to charity in their honour.

If you have a specific idea of what you do or don’t want from your funeral, put those wishes down on paper – either in your Will, Advance Care Directive, or on a separate Funeral Wishes document. Then let your loved ones know it exists and where to find it. When the time comes, they will be grateful that many of the decisions have already been made.

Paying for a loved one’s funeral is placing Australian pensioners in financial hardship

What happens if you can’t afford a funeral in Australia?

If the deceased person or their estate did not have enough money to cover funeral costs, or their family cannot afford the funeral costs, a government contractor will arrange a state-funded funeral.

That is generally either a non-attended cremation, or a burial at a location where families won’t generally have the option to visit.

You can read our article on pauper’s funerals here.

Are DIY funerals in Australia allowed?

Nothing is stopping a family member or friend from planning a DIY funeral in Australia when a loved one dies.

However, there are some strict legal rules regarding interment and paperwork that must be followed, so engaging a funeral provider like Bare to arrange the bare essentials of a funeral – like transport, cremation and paperwork – can support those planning DIY funerals in Australia.

Our guide to DIY funerals explains how we can support you in arranging a funeral without a traditional funeral director.

Alternatively, those considering a more hands-on approach can read about what’s involved with DIY funerals in Australia, in this article published by Choice.  If you’re unsure about what’s right for you and your family, our team are only ever a phone call away. To learn how Bare can support you with your loved one’s funeral, visit the Bare website or call 1800 071 176. If you want to pre-plan your own simple cremation, our pre-paid team would be happy to walk you through the process, give them a call on 1800 202 901.

*Bare’s Future of Funerals Survey was conducted in August 2021, based on a sample of more than 1043 Australians.