Push for ‘natural’ burials

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Britta Sorensen (with friend Flot) has petitioned the Shire to consider planning for natural burial grounds.
Camera IconBritta Sorensen (with friend Flot) has petitioned the Shire to consider planning for natural burial grounds. Credit: Warren Hately

A Margaret River-based end-of-life group has called on the Shire to plan for the future, with a growing interest in “natural” burials.

Death and Dying Matters member Britta Sorensen questioned councillors last week about provisions for environmentally-friendly burials within the review of the local cemeteries law.

Mrs Sorensen said residents were increasingly keen on low-impact, environmentally sound burials, and would like the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to set aside future land — identifying some in Augusta — for natural burials to occur.

“There is quite an appetite in the community for natural burials,” she said.

“We would still like the formal natural burial grounds addressed.”

The Death and Dying Matters group has about 80 members and recently held a forum bringing interested residents together to look at funeral options, including a club where older residents make their own coffins.

Mrs Sorensen said existing burial practices used toxic materials, and Muslims, as well as green-minded residents, wanted the choice to be buried in biodegradable shrouds.

“Certainly most burials are not at all environmentally friendly,” she said. “We are talking about more shallow graves so corpses are more compostable.”

One option was for identification of bushland sites where bodies could be interred without markers except for GPS co-ordinates.

The choice to be buried in such a location adjacent to the Margaret River cemetery was also requested.

“We’ve had a few people flag the possibility of gifting land,” Mrs Sorensen said.

Muslim practitioners employed a workaround using coffins to transport bodies which were then buried in shrouds, according to religious custom, she said.

Shire lawyer Ian McLeod said there was no prohibition within the local law review restricting some of those options.

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