Scattering Ashes

With the ever-growing popularity of cremations in Australia, family and friends are often wonder what do with the ashes after the cremation. Often people do not realize the laws and regulations that come in place with scattering ashes. Nor are they aware of the best ways to memorialise their loved one once cremated. This article will help you and your family to make an informed decision around scattering your loved one’s ashes.


How to scatter ashes

There are many ways in which one can scatter ashes with a few common ones listed below.

Casting Ashes

Probably what comes to mind for most people when considering spreading ashes is the casting method. This is the act of literally scattering ashes to the wind either by hand or pouring the cremains out of an urn. Remember when doing this to stand facing downwind to avoid the ashes blowing back onto you.

Another point to consider is that the cremated remains won’t all be very fine dust. Some ashes may fall quite close to where you are standing, while others will be carried by the wind.

Trenching Ashes

The trenching of ashes involves digging a shallow trench or hole in the ground (usually about 30cms deep) and the ashes being poured into the trench. Depending on your location, dirt or sand is then put over the top to cover the ashes.

This is a great alternative to a traditional burial. The location selected can be one very near to your loved one or family’s heart. Just remember if you are trenching ashes on private property to get permission from the landowner before doing so.

Ringing Ashes

This is the spreading of ashes in a ring or circle formation. You may wish to spread ashes around a tree or bush while having family and friends standing in a circle as an outer ring for the ashes. Each person may also wish to take turns of pouring the ashes to commemorate their loved one.

Raking Ashes

Pouring the ashes from the urn onto the ground, the cremains are then raked into the ground. Families may wish to use this method in their own backyard, knowing that their loved one is always near to them.

Scattering ashes at sea or by air

Within Australia there is no permission needed to scatter ashes at sea, however you do need permission from the owner of the vessel. There are many boating companies who specialise in scattering ashes at sea. They will professionally guide you as to where and when to scatter the ashes as well how to respectfully scatter them from the vessel.

A biodegradable water-soluble urn is a perfect way to ensure that all ashes go into the water without issue. It will float on top of the water for a few minutes, then gently sink and dissolve into the water. Friends and family members may also toss flowers and petals onto the urn as it dissolves. Remember that anything that is put into the sea must dissolve and be biodegradable.

Known as Aerial Ash Scattering, the scattering of ashes by air is done by professionals in a private plane. In recent times, drones have been used to do this. Seek out companies who specialise in this. They will know the appropriate areas where you can scatter ashes from the air and apply for permits if required. If scattering ashes via plane, friends and family of the loved one may be able to be in the plane at the time of the scattering, otherwise they may watch from below.

What to consider before scattering ashes

Do I need permission to scatter ashes?

This depends on where you intend on scattering the ashes.

If you wish to scatter ashes on private property, you must have permission from the property owner. If possible, get permission in writing to avoid any legal confusion or hassle for both yourself and the property owner. Private property can include farms, resorts, certain jetties, gardens and houses. If you are unsure if the land you wish to scatter ashes on is private, get in touch with your local council.

If you are intending on scattering ashes on public lands such as beaches, wilderness areas, or national parks you will need to check the state regulations, as there are different laws for different states. At the time of writing there were no specific regulations or laws on the spreading of ashes on public land in Tasmania, Northern Territory or Western Australia, so be sure to contact the local council of where you wish to scatter the ashes for further information.

Available information on state laws are below:

Is the spreading of ashes a health risk?

If the cremation has been performed by a professional, there is no health risk associated with the ashes themselves or the scattering of them. The cremation process takes place at such extremely high temperatures that there is no possibility of germs or contamination to remain.

Can I spread ashes in a cemetery?

This depends on whether the site is privately or publicly owned. As per the laws with private property, ask the landowner for permission before doing so. If the cemetery is publicly owned, it is best to check with the local council about rules and regulations regarding the spreading of ashes. Some cemeteries are now creating scattering gardens for the very purpose to scatter ashes in a respectful way on their land. Call your local cemetery or memorial park to find out if they have this available.

Can I transport ashes by plane to another state, or even overseas?

Yes, you can. You will need to check with the airline you are travelling with. In general, ashes may be a part of checked or carry-on luggage. The ashes will need to go through security screening so it’s best to make sure the packaging is made of a lightweight material such as wood or plastic. In some cases, you will need to provide documentation that you are travelling with a loved one’s ashes, so again please check with your airline before travelling.

Scattering the ashes of a loved one is a very personal experience. You should take into consideration your loved one’s wishes for their final resting place if known. Remember to take your time when deciding where and when to spread ashes. This is still a part of the grieving process and does not need to happen straight away unless requested by your loved one.

If you are still deciding between a traditional burial or cremation, this article may help your decision become a little easier.

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