A coroner may be called to investigate a death for a number of reasons, generally if the deceased person’s identity or the cause of death was not known.

If the cause of death was unclear, suspicious, or a result of a workplace incident, the police will be called and they will likely arrange for the deceased to be taken to the coroner to determine the cause of death.

The death of loved one is usually a difficult and painful experience, especially when the passing was unexpected. It can be especially tough when a coroner is involved. This article explains the process.

What does a coroner do?

A Coroner is a public official who conducts an independent investigation to determine the cause of a person's death. The coroner will perform a post mortem, or medical examination of the body.

When a death is referred to the coroner, the investigation begins immediately. The coroner’s office will contact the deceased’s family or senior next of kin within a few days of the referral.

At the end of the investigation, the coroner’s office will provide a report of how the death occurred. The investigation will also seek to identify how similar deaths may be prevented in future.

What deaths do they investigate?

A coroner generally investigates unexpected, unnatural or violent deaths, including homicides and suicides. They will also be called to investigate if the deceased person’s identity is not known, or if the cause of death is not known.

If the person died as a result of a fire, a coroner may investigate how the death or fire occurred and consider whether anything could be done to help prevent similar events, and make recommendations as part of their finding.

Another time when a person who was in care or custody dies.

Forensic autopsy vs clinical autopsy.

The coroner will usually perform a forensic autopsy to investigate the cause of death if the passing was either unexpected or suspicious.

Other times, the deceased person’s family or next of kin may request a coroner to investigate the cause of death for a number of reasons, even when it was not deemed suspicious. This is what is known as a clinical autopsy.

A clinical autopsy is commonly requested to determine if the death was the result of a genetic condition. However, if a clinical autopsy is requested, the service incurs a fee. The fee ranges in price from around $800 to upwards of $7,000-$8,000 depending on the level of testing required. For example, a simple DNA test would usually be on the lower end of the coroner’s fee scale.

What happens if a death is unexpected or suspicious?

If you witness someone die unexpectedly or suddenly, or if you aren’t sure if the person is deceased, you should immediately call 000.

Ask for an ambulance and explain what has happened as best you can. Once the first responders arrive, they will either attempt resuscitation or confirm the death (or both). The paramedics or emergency crew will either contact the deceased person’s doctor or the police, depending on the situation.

If the person died unexpectedly, a doctor will need to come to verify their passing and provide a cause of death certificate before any funeral arrangements can be made.

Who determines cause of death?

If a person dies at a hospital, nursing home, or an aged care facility, a doctor or other medical practitioner will generally be able to verify their death and provide the cause of death certificate.

However, if a person has died at a private residence, a workplace, or someplace else, someone will need to call 000. A treating doctor or medical professional will usually need to sight the body to confirm the death before a funeral provider can collect the deceased person.

Can a funeral take place after an autopsy?

The deceased person may still have a funeral after an autopsy has taken place. They may even be eligible to donate organs if their family or give consent. However, the funeral cannot take place until a post-mortem has been completed. If the cause of death is still unknown, the coroner will hold an inquest to review evidence to determine how the person died.

After the investigation is complete, and family members and police have cleared the deceased person for release, the coroner will transfer the body to the mortuary. The chosen funeral provider will liaise with the coroner’s office to obtain the necessary paperwork and make funeral arrangements.

The Coroner may be called to investigate a death if the identity or the cause of death was not known..
The coroner may be called to investigate a death if the identity or the cause of death was not known.

How to contact the coroner’s office in your state.

WA Coroner.

The Coroner's Court of Western Australia is located at Level 10, Central Law Courts 501 Hay Street, Perth WA. For general inquiries, phone (08) 9425 2900 or 1800 671 994.

The WA Coronial Counsellor can be contacted by calling (08) 9425 2900 or after hours on 0419 904 476.

SA Coroner.

The SA Coroners Court is located at 302 King William Street Adelaide, South Australia, 5000. For general inquiries, phone (08) 8204 0600 or email [email protected].

Counselling, information, and support services are available free of charge, including initial grief and crisis counselling during the time immediately following the death of a loved one. Contacting the State Coroner’s Office on the above number, during office hours.

VIC Coroner.

The Victorian Coronial Admissions and Enquiries (CA&E) office is located at 65 Kavanagh Street, Southbank. The CA&E office operates 24 hours a day, however, identification viewings and release of people for funerals are usually conducted within normal business hours.

For general inquiries, phone the Vic Coroner office on 1300 309 519 or email [email protected].

The Victorian Family Liaison Officers can help explain the coronial processes and refer families to external counselling and support agencies. They may be reached by calling the above number.

QLD Coroner.

The Queensland Coroners Court is divided into five regions, with a dedicated coroners office in each:

Coroners Court North Queensland region.

North Queensland Coroner: Level 1, Cairns Magistrates Court, 5D Sheridan Street, Cairns Qld 4870

Phone (07) 4280 6089 or email [email protected]

Coroners Court Central Queensland region.

Mackay Magistrates Court, 12 Brisbane Street, Mackay Qld 4740

Phone (07) 4889 8410 or email [email protected]

Coroners Court Sunshine Coast and South Queensland region.

Level 3, Brisbane Magistrates Court, 363 George Street, Brisbane Qld 4000

Phone (07) 3738 7050 or email [email protected]

Coroners Court Greater Brisbane region.

Level 3, Brisbane Magistrates Court, 363 George Street, Brisbane Qld 4000

Phone (07) 3738 7050 or email [email protected]

Coroners Court South East Queensland region.

Level 3, Southport Magistrates Court, Hinze Street, Southport Qld 4215.

Phone (07) 5675 7031 or email [email protected]

The Queensland Coronial Family Services provides counselling and legal support for families of people whose deaths are being investigated. Phone 1800 449 171 or (07) 3096 2794, or email [email protected].

NSW Coroner.

The Sydney Metropolitan NSW Coroner office is located at the Forensic Medicine and Coroners Court complex, 1A Main Avenue, Lidcombe NSW 2141.

For general inquires, contact the NSW Coroner office on (02) 8584 7777 or email [email protected].

For regional NSW Coroners, please contact the Assistant Coroner at your nearest Local Court.

The NSW Coronial Information and Support Program (CISP) can offer guidance and information during the coronial process, by calling on (02) 8584 7777.  

TAS Coroner.

The Magistrates Court of Tasmania - Coronial Division is located at 27 Liverpool Street, Hobart 7000. For general inquiries and support services, phone (03) 616 57134 during business hours.

Email inquiries regarding Hobart and southern Tasmania, email [email protected]. For the north/north-west or west coast of Tasmania, email [email protected].

NT Coroner.

The NT Coroner office is located at Darwin Local Courts, Nichols Place, Corner of Cavanagh Street and Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin NT 0800. For general inquiries and support services, phone (08) 8999 7770 or email [email protected].

To learn more about Bare or get a quote for a funeral, please head to our Funeral Services page here or give our award-winning customer care team a call on 1800 071 176.